Monday, November 30, 2009

Who is Mr. (or Mrs.) Republican - Washington Post poll

David Frum highlights some items in a recent Washington Post telephone poll that provide intriguing and thought-provoking indications of Republicans' current state of mind.

In one question, Republicans (that is, registered Republicans plus "Republican-leaning nonpartisans") were asked: "Thinking about Republican leaders today - which one person best reflects the core values of the Republican Party?" Here are the top 10 responses (out of 26 names listed, followed by 8% for "There is no leader," 9% for "Other," and 20% with "No opinion):

Sarah Palin 18
John McCain 13
Mike Huckabee 7
Mitt Romney 6
Newt Gingrich 4
Rush Limbaugh 2
Bobby Jindal 1
Colin Powell 1
George Bush 1
George W. Bush 1

The fact that one has to go 10 names down the list to get to George W. Bush's 1% (in a poll of Republicans!) is a pretty striking sign of how thoroughly Bush and his standing have been eclipsed less than a year after he was President. Or so it seems to me. And it's hard to avoid concluding that even Republicans don't have a very favorable retrospective judgment on the Bush II presidency.

(When asked "How much, if at all, do you blame George W. Bush for current problems that the Republican Party may be having?", a total of 69% of Republicans answered either "some," "a good amount," or "a great deal." It's true that 30% assigned Bush "hardly any" blame. What on earth were they thinking?)

The fact that the appalling Sarah Palin was solidly in first place is not surprising, unfortunately, but still astonishing.

=> Another item brings out the intensity of political polarization among Republicans. When Republicans were asked, "How do you personally feel about the Obama administration's policies?", perhaps it's not surprising that only 11% declared themselves either pleased or "Satisfied". What is probably more revealing is that, among the 89% who expressed a negative opinion, 43% described themselves as "Dissatisfied," whereas 46% called themselves "Angry."

Those responses help to explain why Frum's column is titled "We're Mad As Hell ..." (If I were in a facetious mood, I might suggesting adding the subtitle, "And We're Also Mad As Hatters ...", but I will resist the temptation.) These are definitely an angry, unhappy, and grumpy bunch of people.

Frum (who his doing his best these days to carve out a role as the Voice of Reason in conservative/Republican punditry) does add this perceptive speculation:
Yet one has to wonder: how much of the anger felt by Republicans is explained by things Obama has actually done – and how much by the generally miserable situation of the country. Republicans have 401Ks too.
But whom else do they have to blame (since disillusionment with George W. Bush will yield only so much emotional satisfaction at this point)? So all this anger, both concrete and free-floating, is getting focused on Obama and the Democratic Congress ... which may at least partly help to explain the undertone of hysteria and paranoia in a lot of American political discourse over the past 9 months or so. It's plausible.

--Jeff Weintraub