Confidence On The Issues

We hear from so many Democrats -- quite often elected Democrats playing pundit -- that the party's problem is that people care first and foremost about national security and they don't like what they hear from Democrats. For too long, that's been the conventional wisdom. And such conventional wisdom leads to certain Democrats saying patently silly things like, "we need to talk tough about national security, and I will do that... in six months." So I really hope that everyone's paying attention to the signs indicating that the conventional wisdom has been overturned.

The AFL-CIO blog and Georgia10 point to a some new Gallup polling showing that Americans' top three concerns, in order, are access to healthcare, Social Security, and "availability and affordability of energy."Polling Report has the full results, which show people are more concerned about kitchen table issues than personally being attacked by terrorists. It's interesting to me that the poll did not include the war in Iraq as one of the "problems facing the country." Had it been included and a majority of those polled counted it among their top concerns, I think the results would still be good for Democrats. But aside from the civil war in Iraq, Americans seem to be incredibly uneasy with the direction of the country, and on the issues that concern them most, they've already rejected the Republicans.

Matt Singer at PLAN has an interesting and somewhat post praising former Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber for his timing in launching his healthcare reform campaign, The Archimedes Movement. Many have seen Kitzhaber's campaign as the likely beginning to a 2008 Presidential run. With Joe Trippi on board as an adviser, that may well be true. But he's also a doctor, so it's clearly an issue he's legitimately interested in.

It's not as if I'm advocating an abdication of national security as an issue we should campaign on. What I'm saying is that Democrats need to act like winners on every issue. Even the Republican pollsters at Rasmussen acknowledge that Americans trust Congressional Democrats on national security matters more than they do the President. And I think when it comes to the Democrats' newly released national security document, we ought to focus more on the 'redeploy, eliminate Bin Laden' message and less on the specifics.

I guess my ultimate point here is that if Democrats act like they're on the defensive, it leads people to question their position. Look at what a little bit of stubborn cockiness has done for the Republicans over the years. The people are with us. That doesn't mean that we now rest on our laurels and coast to November. But acting like winners and showing a little confidence would certainly not be a bad thing for the Democrats right about now.

Tags: 'Our Plan for America', 'Real Security', Democrats, General 2008, Harry Reid, Healthcare, Message, National Security, Pelosi, polls (all tags)



Re: Confidence On The Issues

I agree with the conclusion, but I am always cautious when I see these polls.  In the runup to November, 2002, all the polls were telling Dems (okay, the polling itself was called into question) that domestic issues like health care were what Americans had on their minds.   But the people who came out to vote that Election Day were the people who supported the war (and even some of them probably worry about health care).  

by whitman 2006-03-29 10:54AM | 0 recs
Re: Confidence On The Issues

Yeah, and that's exactly what worries me. The polls ALWAYS tell us the people are with us on the issues. But for too long, we've failed to capitalize on that. I think we should put forward an image of the Democrats as the party of the majority. It's pretty simple, really. The Republicans have done a better job in recent history of presenting themselves as the optimistic party of the majority, even if it's total BS. Sadly, I think that kind of marketing strategy resonates with people, and you wind up with people who should be voting for Democrats on the issues going along with the GOP, not because the product is better, but because they prefer the brand.

by Scott Shields 2006-03-29 11:02AM | 0 recs
Re: Confidence On The Issues

I couldn't agree with you you more.  Despite a tremendous amount of evidence to the contrary, the Republican party has consistently painted itself as the Party that defends the values and issues that a majority of Americans care about.

National Security is obviously the most recent and damaging example of this, but the Republican mantra of protecting small businesses (by giving tax cuts to wealthy INDIVIDUALS and huge corporations)and the middle class (again, strangely by giving tax cuts to wealthy INDIVIDUALS/huge corporations and refusing to address issues like health care and education)have also proven quite successful from 1980 forward.  

Clearly if 2006 is going to be a "change" election, Democrats are going to have to make crystal clear just how false these Republican Myths are and instead translate their "individual issue" advantage into a broader narrative about how they are best situated to:  1. Protect the Country from terrorism, etc.; and 2. Protect the economy and the American public from the Republican parties reckless economic policies.  Whether you liked him or not, Clinton was very good at communicating that kind of a narrative.  I hope that the current Dem leadership surprises me and comes up with something comparable.

by HSTruman 2006-03-29 12:02PM | 0 recs
Acting like elction winners

Or what I call it - Fake it 'till you make it.

Makes sense to me.

by Sam Loomis 2006-03-29 11:11AM | 0 recs
Re: Confidence On The Issues

I'm amused that you are claiming that American's trust Democrats more than President Bush on security issues.  According to the poll you cite they trust Democrats 43% of the time compared to 41% for Bush.  That hardly seems like a ringing endorsement, and in my mind gives credit to the mainstream media's assertion that most American's don't trust Democrats on security.  Not even half trust Democrats, regardless of how much they trust Bush.  

Leadership and a careful, well thought out alternative to the Bush administration positions on security (daddy issues) strike me as just as important to winning in the fall as effectively using our natural lead on domestic (mommy) issues.  

by Murdoch 2006-03-29 11:23AM | 0 recs

I posted a diary on Kitzhaber both here and over at Kos.  There's some interesting feedback on the Kos link: /29131 /7/15411/47149

by danielj 2006-03-29 11:46AM | 0 recs
Re: Confidence On The Issues

Every poll always says this (as others upthread have mentioned). But the elections always seem to hinge on something else.

I think we need to look into what it is people believe government can and should do. Nobody ever asks people, "Do you think the Federal Government is capable of fixing the health care system?" I'll bet dollars to donuts we'd see a 85% no on that one. People have been told repeatedly over the last few years that the Federal Government is incapable of doing anything very well. There is plenty of evidence to back this up.

It's also very interesting to think that the military is the only part of the Federal Government that has any sort of respect as to its abilities. we have, don't forget, "The Greatest Military In the History of the World." People believe that, whether or not it's true. And if you question our military's capabilities, well, you get in a lot of trouble.

This opinion may be changing. It's very hard to talk about this, though, because you can get smeared as, "not supporting our military." Well, of course, that's not what this is about.

All in all, I think it comes down to what people think the government can do. They don't believe the government can fix our health care system. A good chunk of them probably don't believe it should be fixing our health care system. So why would they vote for someone who claims they can fix the health care system.

People have very little faith in government at any level doing anything right. They have plenty of evidence to back this up. Of course, it has as much to do with the fact that we keep electing incompetents as anything. Plus, a good chunk of these incompetents don't think government can do anything right. On and on...

However, they do believe that government can do security. And they want the people who can do security well in office. That'a why they vote.

Oh, and government can do something about abortion and gay marriage. So there you go.


by phatass 2006-03-29 12:30PM | 0 recs
Re: Confidence On The Issues

I don't disagree with you at all, but I think that the message that the public has internalized -- that government cannot/should not do anything to fix serious problems -- is simply indicative of how effective the Republican party has been in relentlessly driving home their message.  If there's one thing that that should teach progressives, it's that REPEATING the core of your message again and again is vital to political success.  

Moreover, I don't think that the Public perception about Health Care, etc. is something that is set in stone.  Newt Gingrich and the Republican leadership was scared to death that Clinton would win over white middle class and working class voters for a generation (and thereby destroy the base of the republican party)if they succeeded in fixing health care.  Now, obviously Republicans ended up winning that particular battle and have been pretty much ascendant ever since.  But that doesn't mean that the opportunity that existed prior to 1994 -- e.g. to show the public that a competent and progressive government can be a positive force in their lives -- doesn't still exist.  

by HSTruman 2006-03-29 12:53PM | 0 recs
Re: Confidence On The Issues

I don't disagree with that assessment at all.

But have have to recognize we have a lot of work here. We can't just go out and tell people we want to do something about health care without convincing them that anything can be done about it. And it's not just health care. The environment and outsourcing and all the other various domestic issues are in the same boat. Unless you're talking about obvious legal issues, like abortion and the death penalty.

You can't just make poverty illegal. You have to convince people that you can actually do something about poverty. And then you have to convince people that you are the one to do that.

That's going to be one hell of a tough row to hoe.

I think I just had an epiphany.


by phatass 2006-03-29 01:13PM | 0 recs
Re: Confidence On The Issues

I think we're on the same page here, but I would note that progressives shouldn't dismiss out of hand the idea that you "can just go out and tell people" what you're going to/what you need to be doing.  

If Republicans can teach Democrats anything, it's that having specific and logical answers to address issues - although vital in order to actually govern - can in some instances serve as a detriment rather than an asset when it comes to connecting with voters.  

From an intellectual perspective, I'm all for Democrats rolling out specific plans about how they'll fix health care, address outsourcing of jobs, etc.  From a political standpoint, I'm not at all sure that articulating those plans is a good idea.  Fixing real problems is always complicated, and complicated plans are far easier to tear down than to defend.  Personally, I think articulating a consistent, concise, and powerful set of goals should be the Party's focus through election day.  The details can then be rolled out once there's a Democratic majority.    

by HSTruman 2006-03-29 01:34PM | 0 recs
That Dem defense document is deeply depressing

I'm no expert on defense matters, so this is just an impression of a layman who's just read it once. (It's here (PDF), by the way.)

Who is the target audience? I can't imagine those actually downloading it will go beyond the classes of journos, political pros and geeks like those who post here. (Kidding.)

(The average voter will only get a peek at it via the Filter.)

Yet it's written in such a ghastly boilerplate official political prose style with (to me) so little worthwhile content that few of even those narrow three groups are going to spend more time with it than absolutely necessary.

And it will do nothing to persuade them that the Dems are a team with a sensible plan for national security.

(Where does this style come from? The whole of that Kerry-Edwards book/manifesto Our Plan for America was written in it. It feels like it's written to be spoken but very slowly and ponderously, like the voiceover of one of those old travelogues.

There are so many decent lefty writers around who could make the style more attractive, even if they could do nothing about the content. Memo to Reid and Pelosi: hire a few.)

And the commitments are specific enough to be seriously doubted -

...we will...eliminate Bin Laden

for instance.


Secure by 2010 loose nuclear materials

Especially since, with the best of results in November, the Dems won't control the Executive Branch which actually does all this stuff.

So they can only be intending this as a sort of advance platform for 2008.

In which case, isn't it a tad early to be effective - however good the proposals were?

Why couldn't they have issued a document proposing stuff that the Dems could actually do if they won control of Congress in November?

The doc does mention Enact[ing] a GI Bill of Rights for the 21st Century - but not how they propose to enact it without their guy in the White House.

(They could pass the bill, and then try to shame Bush into signing it. But the use of enact rather implies that the Dems will control all elements of the enactment process.

Which they won't.)

Plus - they piss off their Spanish readers (how many monolingual Hispanics do they think will be reading this, for crying out loud? Or is an ethic kow-tow?) by failing to proofread the Spanish translation.

(As for instance, spelling the first element of KBR Kellog - and giving their initials as KRB.)

In form, therefore, a shoddy piece of work.

The substance doesn't look too hot to me, either. But I'll defer to the judgement of others on that...

by skeptic06 2006-03-29 12:40PM | 0 recs
Its not just an issues thing

Theres a spirit to this, that people really dig. They can really feel the need for real reform.

If you're standing out there, saying you're going to end all this corruption and all the while you're taking money from all these special interests to spout some wierd line about this issue, or that issue - you're going to be figured out.

Think about this: israeli politics play down, where you have this freaking suicide bomber factor. Things are going along well enough so that you can take some kind of stance, and then out of the blue a guy blows himself up and your sheep scatter.

Now, there is a type of huckster called a "political consultant" that , not unlike the famous health doc 'Kellogg' and his fixation on the bowels  - they sit there and worship these polls. So the public goes nuts, and they run a poll, and since its chaos it tells them just what they want to hear. Kellogg used to have his patients defecate in a pan, in a room full of people - and then comment on the stool sample "mine is giant, and has no more odor than a warm biscuit".  He died of a heart attack, by the way.

These hucksters prey on the very political process itself. They clothe themselves in political sounding pseudo mathematical jargon, but stop short of realizing that all polls have context, and are inaccurate - I call them the two-sigma crowd, for the fact that they rarely think beyond deviation - they simply can't fathom the math to put together polynomial fits over the course of decades -

The GOP is in power now, because Kevin Phillips, a close friend of my uncle's - had a 20 year plan.

The population sensed it, they have a laser keen sense of the real - and they moved to the right. America is now conservative, if you think otherwise you're dreaming.

But to go one step farther - they are hungry for real reform - for a new , real direction.

They want people to stand up and really shake off the bonds of the idiotic craze to drop polls all over the place.

Israeli political consulants, are the ones who make up these fake statements before the suicide bombers even detonate. If a bomber detonates, they run the ad.

Why not, just talk to the people and tell them how you feel? Russ Feingold does just that. He's real. He stands out there and says, wow. That doesn't make sense. And some lamer politico doesn't get through to him. He saves that money.

He keeps his constituency happy, his bank account is full (who really needs more money - what you want, is more TIME if you're working in DC, let me tell you that. Give me 100k per year, I will have grocery money, a good pair of running shoes and the kids will be well fed and a warm home to come back to after a nice afternoon 10k and I will be content.)

Unlike these jerks in the party, who are constantly pushing people off their equillibrium point - to get one issue passed, that has nothing to do with anything.

Lets reform the government so that the laws are easy to read. Lets make it, like the Guttenberg bible. Use blogs and the net.

America can be a beacon for the world again. This is our heritage. Feingold, our leader.
Democrats win by going for it, all the way.
Not by playing a poll.

by turnerbroadcasting 2006-03-29 12:55PM | 0 recs
Re: Confidence On The Issues

The amazing part to me is that they didn't poll on Iraq.  All of these issues are tied together.

We are spending what, a billion dollars a week on our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan?  And we have what, a Pentagon budget of close to $500 billion that doesn't include those off budget wars?  And that doesn't include most of the black-ops and intelligence budgets.  And it certainly doesn't include the budget for nuclear weapons which is placed in the Dept of Energy for some reason.

And, we are running massive deficits.  Something close to $500 billion a year.  And we seem to be seeing real signs that the rest of the world is getting tired of loaning us money.  Interest rates are rising as they have to make t-bills more attractive to buy.

We are hitting limits.  We are spending to much money.  We are reaching the point where borrowing too much money is starting to really put a stranglehold on our economy.  High interest rates may be starting to threaten the housing market bubble, and if those prices start to come down, a lot of people who are in debt by borrowing on their equity are going to hurt.

So all of this relates right back to what people are saying are the most important issues.  We keep cutting our spending on health care.  Both at the Federal level and the state medicare level, the money we spend to try to support health care gets cut.  When we should be going the other way.  When we should be thinking at least of how to get everyone coverage so they don't have to go to the emergency room when it gets to be an emergency.  And I'm one who thinks eventually we've got to go to a single payer system.  

Social security... well, its barely a problem if I remember numbers from last year.  Putting a bit more money in now, or just having slightly better growth would fix it.  But again, where's the money?

The last of those top three is basically how to we pay for energy.  But we keep cutting programs to help people pay for energy.  And we are consistently cheap on research on the renewable energies we are going to need.

Now go back to the $1 billion a week we are spending on these wars.  Do you think we could put this money to better use?  Just not borrowing that money would help our financial situation.  And that money alone would pay for any program I've ever heard that would provide health coverage for everyone.  That money alone would pay for a very nice renewable energy research program.  And I'd be curious to hear what the actuaries would say if we were putting that $1 billion a week into the SS trust fund.

This is the key argument against the war in Iraq.  We can't afford it.  We need to spend that money on better things.  In Iraq we are litterally just throwing it away.  We might as well be building a bonfire on Capital Hill every week and burning $1 billion for all the good its doing us as a nation.

And I'm very dissapointed to see that the Dems are trying to out-republican the republicans on the military.  I think we should be having massive cuts in the military budgets.  We need special forces to fight terrorism.  We need quick little strike teams.  We need just enough military to go knock over some little tin-pot broken country that terorists have set up camp in.  But we don't need star wars.  We don't really need aircraft carriers.  We don't need F-22 fighters.  We don't need any of that to fight terrorists.  We need cops.  We need investigators.  We need anaylists.  We need some strike teams.  That stuff isn't all that expensive.  

So I'm very sorry to see the Dems not coming out and saying we really need big cuts in what we are spending on defense.  We can't afford it.  We are going broke paying for it.  And we don't need it.  It doesn't make us safer.  In fact the way we're using it makes us much less secure.

by COBear 2006-03-29 02:44PM | 0 recs
Re: Confidence On The Issues

The defense budget is so crammed with multi billion dollar sweetheart deals for programs making stuff that doesn't work properly (or at all), it makes a sane guy despair.

It's been the same since World War 2 (wasn't much of anything military in the US before the war) and no doubt will continue into the indefinite future.

Chances of a Dem trifecta bringing sanity to defense spending: zero in this universe. (On past experience, that is.)

by skeptic06 2006-03-29 02:56PM | 0 recs
Re: Confidence On The Issues

Kitzhaber is smart; so is Feingold.  Do we have a ticket?

Successful political leaders generally have real personalities, or at least consistent personas.  We feel like we actually know them.  That's waht makes Kerry and Edwards and other poll-driven pols so hapless.  

I agree that the Dems need to focus more on what has been wrong-headed and dishonest about Republican policies.  And address it in terms of common sense, as Feingold often does.  Like Peter Falk's Columbo, scratch head, repeat the bullshit that has been spun at him, and respond in everyman language, "Uh, I don't get it" or "Does this make sense?"  

Does it make sense that we're spending billions on a war that was fought on the basis of a fraud?  If we're not doing any good, should we mortage our futures?  Didn't the Repubs say they were the fiscally responsible onbes?  Then why are they outrageous deficit spenders?  Etc.

And yes, a few themes repeated more often than one could think possible.

by Thaddeus 2006-03-29 05:18PM | 0 recs


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