Given the amount of polling data available these days, it’s hard to believe how totally disconnected Capitol Hill Republicans and their Beltway media pals are from the rest of the country.
Last week, President Obama won a stunning victory with the passage of a stimulus package even larger than he initially proposed. The bill will pump hundreds of billions of needed dollars into the economy and give Americans the largest tax cut in history ($282 billion over two years, bigger than the tax cuts of either Bush or Reagan).
Apparently, the worst thing that hundreds of GOP staffers could find in an $800 billion bill was $30 million appropriated for wetlands restoration. In the feverish minds of the GOP, this was a giveaway to marsh mice in the San Francisco Bay. Never mind that the legislation said nothing about any mice, either in San Francisco or anywhere else.
There’s no real way to understand the incoherent obsession Republicans harbored for the non-existent marsh mice; perhaps the imaginary mice were gay?
In any case, the public is delighted with the Democrats’ efforts, and unimpressed by the GOP’s search for ghost mice. Last week’s Daily Kos poll (conducted by nonpartisan media pollster Research 2000) showed a robust 68 percent of Americans approving of Obama’s performance, compared to just 25 percent disapproving. Meanwhile, congressional Democrats’ approval-disapproval rating gained a net three points from the prior week, to 39-53. That might appear anemic, but it’s a net 36 points better than congressional Republicans, who slipped three points to a 2009-low approval rating. Just 19 percent of Americans approve of their marsh-mousing ways, with 69 percent disapproving.
You’d think that the Beltway conventional wisdom would reflect the simple reality revealed in the polling: the stimulus legislation was overwhelmingly popular, Obama and congressional Democrats benefited politically from passing it, and Republicans are being punished by popular sentiment for opposing it. Alas, D.C. is located in an entirely different dimension from the real world.
MSNBC’s First Read declared the Republicans winners, because the party “demonstrated unity after its big losses in November.” The Associated Press’s Liz Sidoti risibly wrote, “Adrift after back-to-back electoral losses, they found their voice against a Democratic Speaker and an expanded majority … as they led the effort to define the package as too costly and too quick.” The propagandists at Fox News echoed those sentiments: “Republican lawmakers may turn out to be winners. Most of them voted against the package, and in their largely unified opposition, they found an issue to galvanize the party.”
Apparently, the GOP’s problem isn’t that its ideas are stale and vacant, or that it can’t win elections — its problem has been a lack of unity. And since that “problem” had been solved by uniting around imaginary (and possibly gay) marsh mice, last week was a victory for them. Huzzah!
The real story here is that the gap between Beltway conventional wisdom and the rest of the country keeps widening. Americans couldn’t give a marsh mouse’s behind whether Republicans are unified — they want to know someone in D.C. is looking out for them. They’re losing their jobs, their homes and their financial security, and when they look to Washington for help, they see two parties: one working overtime to solve difficult problems, the other patting itself on the back for “unifying” around opposition to marsh mice.
Is it any wonder Democrats are reaping the political benefits?
Moulitsas is founder and publisher of Daily Kos