On the face of it, Dems are rejoicing at the latest Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll that shows President Bush's approval ratings on the issues have fallen and/or languish below the 50% mark. The reality of that poll, if you interpret it correctly, demonstrates how stupid those rejoicing Dems might be.
Nothing about that poll, which shows fewer than half of Americans feeling optimistic about the coming four years, 52% saying that the Iraq war has not been worth the human and financial cost, and 49% disapproving of the President's handling of foreign policy, ought to make Dems happy. Why? Because Bush continues to score high on the following issues, such as:
"Having strong leadership qualities needed to be President"
"Having high personal standards that set proper moral tones for the country"
"Having the ability to handle a crisis"
What do these numbers say, then? They say that Dems just got bitch-slapped by a skittish and fearful American public. As we said immediately after the election: most of the issues facing our country and the world are fairly complex and somewhat frightening. The majority of Americans, right or wrong, just want to elect someone who can take care of those issues for them in a competent and strong manner. They care about issues, but not enough to elect someone they don't feel will "handle the business" in a take-charge kind of way. This poll shows that even when people disapprove of the President on almost every issue, they still approve of his "leadership" and "ability to handle a crisis."
In a post right after the election I posited a theory about the New York Times Bestseller list as a bellwether of voter behavior. Let's take a peek at some of them:
YOUR BEST LIFE NOW, by Joel Osteen
HE'S JUST NOT THAT INTO YOU, by Greg Behrendt and Liz Tuccillo
THE PURPOSE-DRIVEN LIFE, by Rick Warren
THE SOUTH BEACH DIET, by Arthur Agatston
START LATE, FINISH RICH: A NO-FAIL PLAN FOR ACHIEVING FINANCIAL FREEDOM AT ANY AGE, by David Bach
THE ULTIMATE WEIGHT SOLUTION, by Phil McGraw
THE DA VINCI CODE, by Dan Brown
THE FIVE PEOPLE YOU MEET IN HEAVEN, by Mitch Albom
CHAINFIRE, by Terry Goodkind
STATE OF FEAR, by Michael Crichton
BY ORDER OF THE PRESIDENT, by W. E. B. Griffin
Anyone see the trend? Anyone? How about "tell me what to do to be happy/rich/thin" and "help me find meaning out of chaos without feeding me straight-up religion"? People are obviously searching for A) Direction and B) Meaning in their lives. What did we Dems give them? A Vietnam Retrospective.
Lesson for Dems? Stop splitting hairs about who is the Democratic Wing of the Democratic Party, stop trying to triangulate on "Republican" issues, stop haranguing each other on who is Democratic enough to lead us. Just find a leader who is comfortable saying (or at least be seen to be saying), "I am in charge, and if you (unions, women, teachers, name your special interest group) don't like it, you know where the door is." We need a candidate who will say to the American people, "These issues are complicated and sometimes scary, but don't you worry about it. I've got it handled," while offering some philosophical underpinning for who the Democratic Party is.
We need an "elevator pitch," that 15 second soundbite that sums up who, what, when, where and why in a way that convinces someone you deserve a second look and that allows them to easily, quickly, and without apology, tell their friends why they are a Democrat. That is what Bush Inc. did in this election, that is the image that GWB has projected--whether real or imagined, and that is precisely why he is taking the oath of office today rather than John Kerry.
Heaven help us.