Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Is Polarization Failing?

It's no big secret that the Bush/Rove polarization approach to politics and policy is predicated on the belief that since self-identified conservatives handily outnumber liberals, destroying any middle ground will force moderates to choose sides in a competition where Democrats have to win a huge, disproportionate number of them to stay even. But as a new Washington Post survey shows, Democrats may soon be well-positioned to do just that.

According to the survey, while four of five Democrats think Bush is focusing on the wrong priorities, and nearly as many Republicans disagree, an astonishing 68 percent of self-identified political independents agree with Democrats on this question. And let's be clear: it's not that they worry about Bush's particular approach to this or that issue, or don't know enough about it--they think he's focusing on the wrong issues entirely.

Since the dominant conservative wing of the GOP is now deeply, and probably irreversibly, invested in Bush's current agenda, it will be very difficult for him to change gears dramatically, even if he did have something relevant to offer on the economy, health care, or Iraq, which he doesn't. Thus, it may well be that the powerful logic of polarization--a strategy that simultaneously allows you to rev up your base, reward constituencies, and force the opposition to counter-polarize--is turning perverse, as Bush struggles with a restive base, clamoring constituencies, alienated swing voters, and a united Democratic opposition that, for all its problems, seems more in touch with what Americans care about.
-- Posted at 3:11 PM | Link to this post | Email this post

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