By David Hill - 03/08/06 12:00 AM EST
The table seems to be set for the congressional Democrats seeking election this November.
The Republican president’s disapproval ratings approach 60 percent. Perceptions that the nation is on the wrong track are even higher. And the consensus generic-ballot polling shows a near-majority of Americans now ready to vote for a Democrat for Congress. With all of this going for them, how could the Democrats lose?
That’s not the only set of facts bolstering congressional Democrats. Historically minded members of the congressional minority also look back to 1994 for reassurance that a majority can be toppled.
With all this encouragement, you’d think that Democrats would be all joy and happiness, but they aren’t. And they shouldn’t be.
When you think that everything’s going your way in politics, that’s the very moment you should begin to worry. And a lot of Democrats are worried.
While most Democrats won’t give voice to their anxieties, they innately sense that their party stands on the precipice of squandering a political opportunity of historical proportions. When historians one day scrutinize this failure, they’ll doubtless focus on a moment that will occur in the next few months.
In that moment, Democrats yearning for “a message” will seize control of the party, grab its megaphone and let out a primal stream of political obscenities that will drive voters into the waiting arms of Republicans. It will be the equivalent of turning rapper Eminem loose at the PTA meeting, Rotary Club and church social all in the same day. And then it will be over for this bunch of Democrats.
Politics is a game or sport. That may offend you, but it’s a reality. And like most sports, politics has its own rules. These constitute a real “political science,” very different from the discipline taught in colleges and universities but a much better predictor of election outcomes.
The best polling predictor of political surf conditions is the right-direction, wrong-track question. The latest Los Angeles Times poll of the national electorate provides the strongest hint yet that the Democrats should have the wind to their backs. Almost two-thirds of Americans (64 percent) told the Times that things in this country are “seriously off on the wrong track.”
This polling organization is the only one of the major public polls that uses the word “seriously” to enhance its wrong-track option. In the past decade of polling by that organization, “serious” wrong-track sentiment never passed the 60 percent threshold, until now.
If Democrats would just let political events follow their natural course, they would win a big victory this fall. The wrong-track majority would vote disproportionately for challengers, thereby electing a Democratic majority.
But accepting nature is not the Democratic way. Whether it’s a matter of controlling global climatic conditions or reversing innate prejudice, Democrats always think they can do better than nature.
So some Democrats aren’t satisfied to leave well enough alone. They want to give the coming perfect storm a name, and by doing so they’ll spoil their chances. The New York Times, never a shrewd judge of campaign strategies, is leading the call for a bold and unified Democratic message.
You might wonder why I’m helping illuminate the error in Democrats’ thinking. Actually, my observations are nothing new and certainly not much of a secret. Some Democratic consultants are trying to tell their party the same things.
But Howard Dean’s Democrats won’t listen. They’re congenitally prone to losing “for the right reason.” So it doesn’t matter what I say. They are going to do it their way. So as someone once said, “Go ahead, make my day.”
Hill is director of Hill Research Consultants, a Texas-based firm that has polled for GOP candidates and causes since 1988.