Dec 30 2007
The instability of the horse race polls in New Hampshire and Iowa are an indication of a much broader dynamic that the pollsters and the talking heads just cannot get their minds wrapped around. The dedicated party stalwarts – what is left of them – keep cycling around trying to find some other answer than the inevitable choices who would garner broad support. The purity wars still plague the left and right. There is still denial in the parties that the country actually wants to be united, is weary of the raging partisan wars even MORE than they are weary of the of the war on terrorism. The country may be looking to the center as the parties run to the fringes.
If I am right the concern over Iraq will be completely overshadowed by a broad and boiling irritation with the mindless, endless, useless hardcore partisan drivel. It is fine to have opinions and positions and argue them. It is not fine to use overheated rhetoric, gutter politics and the repeated use of personal attacks to cover up for weak and unsupported policy positions. We have seen too much of the latter and want more of the former.
The Dems have destroyed their credibility on Iraq through their self destructive approach on Iraq. They demonizes people who differ with them on the pending defeat in Iraq, creating their far left purity test. The only cheers on the far left come when America loses or al-Qaeda kills. It is hyper-partisanship taken to an absurd extreme. And America is noticing (just ask Senator Ned Lamont). The fact that defeat is never going to actually become reality is of no importance to the far left. To point out reality only results in even more vile insults from those now emotionally wedded to the fantasy that America cannot succeed in Iraq.
The GOP destroyed their credibility in many ways by open and ugly civil war based on purity of cause. The best example is calling their leader ‘El Presidente Jorge Bush’ and disparaging their coalition partners simply because they disagreed with them on what to do with the long term illegal aliens in this country. (Note: no one is distracted or confused by the border issue, what to do with criminal immigrants, and all those other issues which have broad support. They were all addressed in all the bills proposed in Congress. What the far right fears is ‘amnesty’ which is about one subject and one subject only – no matter how much they want to pretend otherwise.) The GOP purity wars rage on about who is the most religious and who is the most angry at immigrants who have lived illegally amongst us for 10-20 years. They have turned off the largest minority in the US, to go along with their abysmal support within the second largest minority. They are more afraid of foreign born neighbors than terrorists with bombs. And they will lash out at any moderate who fails to tow their line.
So, what does this all mean in 2008? Here’s a hint: what polls cannot tell you is what they cannot measure. This is very, very important to understand and appreciate when trying to interpret what is basically scientific data. What is not measured can also be the driving factor in the item being sampled. Whether it is measured or not is irrelevant, its effect is there visible or not. That is why scientists need to understand what could be a factor outside their immediate perceptions.
Look at the Rasmussen numbers which now laughably shows a four way tie! Has the GOP fractured this much? Are the uber religious conservatives still going to walk if Rudy Giuliani wins the nomination? If one looks at the top four contenders three of them are what the far right would call RINOs – their derogatory label for the impure. Recall that Bush’s biggest sins are his RINO tendencies (Miers, Dubai Ports, Immigration). So why are three of the most infamous RINOs now in the hunt for President and only one of the social conservatives limping along in the pack (Huckabee)?
The largest growing political group in this country are the political independents. The folks who will not align with either party (I being a proud member of that group). Are the polls measuring this group? Not if that group has decided to reject the efforts to be measured. Political polls are one of those measurements which require the support of those being measured in order to be accurate. If one major segment of the country becomes so turned off they resist measurement, but still plan to exercise their political clout, then what would be the result on the measurements? Chaos – as we are seeing in the polls now. Chaos because all the models used to extrapolate small samples into models of large populations would be thrown out of kilter.
The polls are gyrating wildly right now, there is no mistake about that. The questions is why? Much of it has to do with the fact you cannot get people sampled during a holiday season that cries out for ignoring the ugliness of politics. And let’s be clear, politics right now is at an ugly low, made all the more apparent when compared to the days of unity after 9-11. But it could be the Holiday sample problem plus something else.
So why would people be turing off to politics in large numbers? Well for one they were lied to. The Democrats promised to end the Iraq war, but never once said their plans entailed surrendering Iraq to al-Qaeda. But even worse they claimed The Surge was a failure. The fact they made these claims before it actually went into full effect is not in any way a mitigating factor for the dems. They lied and America has responded by giving them the lowest approval numbers since polls starting sampling approval levels.
With the GOP it is even more obvious – they back stabbing of Bush was probably the best indication of why there is no benefit in a political alliance with the GOP. If they would stab Bush in the back they would do it to anyone.
George Bush is polling higher than Congress, which means America understand what is going on with Iraq and who is winning the war between him and the GOP. And Bush’s numbers will continue to grow as the reality of success in Iraq sinks in. So what do Americans do about a far left that lied to them about their Commander-in-Chief and a GOP that stabbed him in the back? I suspect they will say enough of dealing with the partisan fringes. That is why Hillary clings to the center to hold off Obama (and his succeeding) and Obama can only dethrone Hillary by running on being a uniter – being change. They need to hewn to the center.
It is also clear the country is rejecting the fringes as fringe candidates whither into oblivion with shocking regularity (Tancredo, Paul). Who will win in Iowa and New Hampshire depends on whether the silent moderate majority will stand up and take the parties back from their fringe elements. I think they will – even in places like Iowa were the party apparatus is still trying to cling to control. We have seen something similar in VA as the GOP has tried many times to not allow popular forces to drive the selection of candidates. Those efforts failed. VA is where the Dems have turned to left of center candidates to win seats – in defiance to their far left fringe. All of these examples are important to understand the context of the numbers in the polls.
I suspect there is a large, hidden force rising out there – not measurable by pollsters because the force is tired of the conventional political process and is not allowing itself to be measured. I think we will see in 2008 the continuation of what started in 2006, which is the electorate throwing out leaders who hewn to the fringes and don’t find compromise and produce results. That is how the Dems grabbed control of Congress, and why they risk losing that control this year.
If Iraq does continue to go well, then the big frustration in the country will not be Iraq but the uselessness of hyper-partisan warfare. The RINOs and DINOs determine elections, and this is their year to send a signal to wake up the parties. I think that is the big hidden force at work out there, the move to the moderate middle and rejection of the fringes.