Democrats: Voters Aren't Afraid of the GOP. Republicans: But They Don't Like You Either.


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For more evidence that prospective Republican gains have nothing to do with the popularity of their policies (or lack thereof), you should look to the latest data from National Journal's Congressional Connection poll. According to the poll, Americans are sour on nearly every element of the GOP's domestic agenda; aside from Social Security private accounts -- which have broad support among everyone but the elderly -- a large majority of Americans oppose plans to repeal health-care legislation, replace Medicare with vouchers (as per Paul Ryan's "roadmap"), and extend the Bush tax cuts in full. And to bolster a point I made earlier today about the likely failure of the Democrat's anti-John Boehner media strategy, only 5 percent of respondents identified Boehner as a possible Republican leader.

This doesn't bode well for the Democratic Party's midterm strategy; by and large, voters just aren't afraid of Republican policies. They dislike them, yes, but that isn't enough to motivate activity on behalf of the majority. The chief dynamic in this election is dissatisfaction with the incumbent party driven by unemployment and poor economic performance. Campaign and media effects will help on the margins, but there isn't much Democrats can do to change the fundamentals, at least in the immediate short term.

That said, these poll results -- and others like them -- will be very useful to the left as ammunition in the post-election fight to define the narrative. Odds are very good that moderate and "centrist" Democrats will blame liberals for the party's midterm performance; they'll "tut tut" the party's recent achievements, caution against further ambition, and push the administration to abandon liberals in favor of capitulation to the right. But if voters are voting against the economy and not the president's policies, liberals have a strong case for the opposite view; if moderates weren't so keen on extracting value president's economic proposals, the economy -- and thus the party -- would be in better shape. In which case, sticking with progressives -- and ignoring moderates -- is the best strategy for facing the conservative revival.

-- Jamelle Bouie

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