Another day, another poll, another rock-solid finding that the American people are tired, fed up and sick to death of the Bush administration's corrupt incompetence and steadfast reactionaryism.
But the trouble extends even beyond that, although that assessment is merely implicit in the findings. We'll get to that in a minute. First, the verifiably grim and concrete.
As reporting on a newly released Washington Post-ABC News poll summarized it, the national mood is "deeply pessimistic." Nevertheless the pessimism has not yet yielded to abject despair: Americans remain "eager for a change in direction from the agenda and priorities of President Bush." Such an eagerness indicates a sustained belief in uplifting possibilities.
The scope and uniformity of these moods -- that is, at once the negative and positive -- are astounding. Naturally self-identified Democrats "overwhelmingly ... want a new direction," but three out of every four independents are right there on the sidelines with them.
Not really so astounding, you say? Then try this on: so are "half of Republicans." Half. Or, put another way, self-loathing within the GOP is now on a par with self-satisfaction.
Returning to the familiar, the poll also found that "only 36 percent of those surveyed approve of the way [Congressional Democrats] are handling their jobs," which, given the margin of error, puts Democratic pols in the same non-approval slot as the ill-tolerated president. Or, to once again put it another way, voters are as dissatisfied with the opposition to the problem as they are with the problem itself.
And that leads us to that aforementioned deeper trouble, which at first only seems to come in the form of an electoral disconnect.
With respect to the 2008 elections, "The overall landscape tilts in the direction of the Democrats, but there is evidence in the new poll ... that the coming battle for the White House is shaping up to be another hard-fought, highly negative and closely decided contest." And, given the Congressional majority's unfavorable rating, there's little reason to expect anything but the same in 34/435 races across the country. It's shaping up to be a bloody year, all the way around.
But wait, you say. That makes no sense. Voters are indeed sick to death of Bushian policies, priorities and pugilism, so with the leading GOP presidential candidates -- and so on down the line -- all regurgitating like-minded crappola, virtually any Democratic presidential candidate and the party's Congressional contestants should be thumping the bejesus out of the Grand Old Party.
Not only should the contest careen from the "closely decided," it shouldn't be a contest at all. It should, rather, be a one-sided bloodbath.
That's the should part. But there is, in fact, no electoral disconnect. Voters are likely to fall within their traditional partisan traps largely because the parties' partisan differences are so little differentiated. Voters are surveying our national carnage and proposed cures and thinking, What's the real difference between these nitwits?
And in that sense, the Democratic Party -- as a whole -- is blowing it.
Sure, there are welcome mutterings from the Democratic Congress and the party's presidential candidates about, say, changes in the nation's healthcare system. But on the two 800-pound political gorillas -- a fundamental restructuring of fiscal responsibility leading to far broader progressivism, and, of equal if not contemporary superior importance, America's behavior in and relationship to the world -- voters are hearing only vague and subtle differences of opinion and intent.
And, as the WaPo-ABC poll more than suggests, voters don't want vague and they don't want subtle right now. They know a little tweaking here and a little tweaking there won't fundamentally change our direction at home or abroad. They're screaming -- and probably literally so at pollsters -- that they want a profound and radically different course. In short, a profoundly progressive course.
Yet the Dems offer meekness.
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