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The Heart Of The Matter


Fourteen days until the November election and counting.  And the headlines are screaming political upheaval and American dissatisfaction with the Bush Administration and the shameless shenanigans of a Republican Congress hell bent on cronyism and corruption and excess, and rubber stamping anything George Bush sends to the Hill…and not much else from the look of things.  But the question in my mind this morning is whether this translates to enough votes for Democrats in the end? 

Because at the end of the day, it's not enough to have people pissed off and wanting change, they have to be motivated enough to take time out between shifts and vote.  Not just any vote, but angry enough, disgusted enough, hopeful enough to vote for a change in representation — away from the name that they have seen for years as an incumbant to vote for the fresh Democratic face on the ballot.

The thing that I am most proud of here at FDL is the work we have done with our Blue America candidates and the "Have You Had Enough?" ads that we have been able to put together in a synergistic burst of energy and enthusiasm.  Through Howie's brilliance and Tommy Yum's talent and Jacqrat's incredible won't take no for an answer perseverence and Siun's sheer willpower to push this forward and so many other people in the campaigns and who have worked with Howie and Co. on this — just amazing stuff, really — we have a viral song campaign playing in a whole lot of districts that I hope will have people whistling our little tune all the way to the voting booth.

It is this sort of innovative motivation that we need in this campaign season, where Americans seem exhausted and beaten down and hopeless over so many issues this year:  the Foley sex scandal, the enormous deficit, the never-ending messes in Iraq and Afghanistan, the foreign policy nightmares with Iran and North Korea and the Israeli-Palestinian non-negotiations, the high energy costs, the uncertainty and fear for an economic future where health care costs and day-to-day living costs and long-term care for elderly parents and every other thing that everyday Americans have to face seems endless and unanswerable. 

America is unhappy at the moment, disgusted and angry even — but will this translate into votes FOR Democrats, or will it mean that folks just throw up their hands and stay home without voting at all?

There are polling numbers that indicate that the Republican party has lost the independent vote — and a segment of the Republican base as well.  At a time when voter allegiance to a particular party has hardened into cement-like certainty for voters who have a specific party affiliation — something for which Karl Rove has worked very hard over the last few years, trying to polarize folks into a vote certain along party lines — the folks in the middle have been the only wiggle room left at the ballot box for both parties. 

And, according to a recent ABC/WaPo poll, the independents have had enough of the mess that Republicans have been allowed to make the past five years of controlling both the White House and Congress.  There is a strong desire for change, fueled by anger over the mess in Iraq and a feeling that some serious checks and balances are needed.  Worse for President Bush and Karl Rove and the rubber stamp Republicans in Congress, a large chunk of the GOP base is no longer buying their "stay the course" rhetoric either — and you see that in the lame attempt by the President and his cronies to slink away from their consistent use of "stay the course" by pretending they never said it at all, for the last five years.  (Too bad there is pesky videotape — dang technology.)

In other words, the same concepts that fuel a lot of discussions that we have here at FDL are resonating across a broad swath of the public, that twin desire for accountability and honest debate of the tough issues facing our nation — and the mess that is Iraq is fanning those flames.

It's two weeks away, and the 2006 midterm elections look like a referendum on Iraq, a war in which President Bush and his party have lost not just the political center but significant chunks of their base.

An improving economy notwithstanding, opposition to the war remains the prime issue driving congressional voter preference. And the war's critics include not just eight in 10 Democrats but 64 percent of independents, 40 percent of conservatives, 35 percent of evangelical white Protestants and a quarter of Republicans.

There is more in depth analysis from the WaPo on this, including the following:

Independents are poised to play a pivotal role in next month's elections because Democrats and Republicans are basically united behind candidates of their own parties. Ninety-five percent of Democrats say they will support Democratic candidates for the House while slightly fewer (88 percent) Republicans said they plan to vote for their party's candidates.

The independent voters surveyed said they plan to support Democratic candidates over Republicans by roughly 2-to-1 (59 percent to 31 percent), the largest margin in any Post-ABC News poll this year. Forty-five percent said it would be good if Democrats recapture the House majority while just 10 percent said it would not be. The rest said it would not matter.

The poll also found that independents are highly pessimistic because of the Iraq war and the overall state of the country. Just 23 percent said the country is heading in the right direction compared to 75 percent who say things have gotten off track. Only a quarter of independents approve of the job Congress has done this year and only a third believe the Iraq war has been worth fighting.

That is quite a hefty chunk, and it explains why the White House is now doing its best soft shoe and risking a flat out lie to the American public in the hopes that enough low information voters will buy their tap dance.

In other words, the Bush Administration hopes that the American public is too stupid to know they are liars — because that is the political strategy they have left.

Not something I'd want to bank my election hopes on, frankly, but that's what they get for crying wolf too many times on the terrorism boogeyman and ginning up false mushroom clouds in Iraq: you sacrifice your credibility and integrity on the alter of temporary power, you deserve to reap what you have sown. And boy does this particular Bush White House deserve a full crop of weeds.

And it isn't just the ABC/WaPo poll that is showing this trend — MSNBC/McLatchy has a poll compiled by Mason-Dixon that is showing almost exactly the same information on voting sentiments across the board for independents, Democrats and a big chunk of disgusted Republicans.  And, as Tom Curry points out in his article on MSNBC, Americans see for themselves the truth that President Rose-Colored Glasses refuses to acknowledge:  that Iraq is in a bloody civil war, and our soldiers are stuck in the middle of this mess because the Bush Administration failed to adequately plan for the worst case scenario in which we are now mired.

Despite the horrific images in the past weeks of carnage in Iraq, and despite the natural tendency of Americans to pay attention to the sons, nephews, and high school classmates they know who’ve been killed in Iraq, the brutality and bloodshed have been building for more than a year and it is mostly Iraqis who’ve been killed by other Iraqis.

As Anthony Cordesman of the Center for Strategic and International Studies noted Monday in a memo, “Iraqis are fighting Iraqis for Iraqi reasons, not to influence elections or force the U.S. out of Iraq. This has built up for more than two years….By late 2005, civil fighting had reached the point where Sunni vs. Shi'ite clashes had become more important to Iraq's future than attacks on the (American-led) Coalition.”

The American public sees this for what it is: a quagmire, into which they are sending their sons and daughters, husbands and wives, fathers and mothers, to be killed or maimed…and for what? How many different excuses has the Bush Administration floated for our involvement there, at this point?

Ultimately, the American voters will decide who should be held to account for this mess — for the $250 million dollars a day that we pour into Iraq that could be used elsewhere, including to shore up the ailing veteran's medical services that desperately need additional funding as more and more wounded soldiers pour into the VA system every single day we are there.

It comes down to trust — that is the heart of the matter.  And after all the lies, the machinations, the failures of Republicans over and over to rise above rampant cronyism and corruption and KStreet greed…Americans simply do not trust the Republican party.

Disenchantment over the war in Iraq has morphed into disillusionment over the direction of the country, breeding distrust in the administration’s policies, surveys suggest. Moreover, concerned by weak wage growth, costly health care and eroding benefits, many middle-class voters do not see the economy improving for them.

“Voters overwhelmingly don’t approve of the president on the economy,” said Amy Walter, a senior editor at the Cook Political Report, a nonpartisan firm that handicaps political races. “It comes down to the issue of credibility. And so many voters feel so pessimistic about the direction of the country.”

This has been building since Katrina hit our shores and so many Americans were left stranded in its wake, and while the rest of America watched in horror, the President stayed on vacation and ran around doing campaign appearances and eating birthday cake with John McCain. The fundamental truth in politics is that you start each day fresh — and you have to continue to earn the trust of the public by your actions and your results. And the Bush Administration has failed that test time and time again. And, by its failure to provide any sort of check or balance to the overreach and poor planning and outright flouting of our nation's laws, the Republican Congress has forfeited the public's trust as well.

Whatever victories the Democrats have in this Fall's election, the Republicans have earned each and every one of them. But disgust with the Republican party and its utter lack of ability to govern is not enough. We have to get those folks who are angry and exhausted from all of this mess and get them to the polls. Let's get out this vote, folks — whatever it takes for the next two weeks — because this nation of ours deserves a helluva lot better than it is getting from Republicans.

And from the looks of things, there are a whole lot of folks who agree with that sentiment.  Had enough?  Vote for Democrats.  And please help do some work to get other folks up and out the door to vote for Democrats, too.

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Christy Hardin Smith

Christy Hardin Smith

Christy is a "recovering" attorney, who earned her undergraduate degree at Smith College, in American Studies and Government, concentrating in American Foreign Policy. She then went on to graduate studies at the University of Pennsylvania in the field of political science and international relations/security studies, before attending law school at the College of Law at West Virginia University, where she was Associate Editor of the Law Review. Christy was a partner in her own firm for several years, where she practiced in a number of areas including criminal defense, child abuse and neglect representation, domestic law, civil litigation, and she was an attorney for a small municipality, before switching hats to become a state prosecutor. Christy has extensive trial experience, and has worked for years both in and out of the court system to improve the lives of at risk children.

Email: reddhedd AT firedoglake DOT com