Friday, April 29, 2005

Revolt of the Middle?

April 27, 2005
Revolt of the Middle?

In E.J. Dionne's column yesterday, "Revolt of the Middle", he remarked:

...[S]omething important has happened since President Bush's inauguration. America's moderates may not be screaming, but they're in revolt. Many who reluctantly supported the president and the Republicans in 2004 are turning away. The party's agenda on Social Security, judges and the Terri Schiavo case is out of touch with where moderate voters stand. Worse for Bush and his party, most moderates have a practical, problem-solving view of government and think these issues are far less important than shoring up a shaky economy and improving living standards.

The moderates have rebelled before. This period in American politics is beginning to take on the contours of the years leading up to the 1992 election. That's when Ross Perot led an uprising of the angry middle and Bill Clinton waged war on the "brain-dead politics of both parties." Bush's decision to read the 2004 election as a broad mandate for whatever policies he chose to put forward now looks like a major mistake. In fact, Bush won narrowly in 2004, and he won almost entirely because just enough middle-of-the-road voters decided they trusted him more than they did John Kerry to deal with terrorism.

That seems entirely correct to me. Bush is losing the center of American politics which, as Alan Abramowitz points out in his post on "The New Independent Voter", leans Democratic to begin with. Bush's actions seem designed to accentuate those leanings, rather than counter them, and have contributed mightily to his declining political fortunes.

The new Washington Post/ABC News (WP/ABC) poll provides exceptionally clear evidence of these declining fortunes. Bush's approval rating is now 47 percent approval/50 percent disapproval, as low as it's even been in this poll. His ratings on the economy and Iraq are, respectively, 40/56 (his second-lowest ever) and 42/57. On energy policy, his rating is 35/54. And on Social Security, his approval rating has sunk to 31/64, by far his worst rating ever.

Other results in the poll underscore how Bush is losing the political fight on Social Security....