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Belmont Club

“None of the above”

December 13th, 2011 - 12:52 pm

The National Journal reports on a survey which claims that voters are deeply disappointed with everyone in Washington, both Republican and Democrat. To a disturbing extent the voters see politicians as two sides of the same dirty coin.

Across a wide array of measures, Americans are now as dissatisfied with Congress as they were immediately before the 2006 and 2010 electoral landslides that ousted the majority party in one or both chambers, according to a year-end United Technologies/National Journal Congressional Connection Poll.

One year after Republicans made the largest gains in a midterm House election since 1938, the survey finds Americans still restless, dissatisfied, and profoundly pessimistic about Washington’s capacity to make progress on the major problems facing the country.

In the survey, independent voters—whose shifts in allegiance helped trigger both the big Democratic gains of 2006 and last year’s Republican revival—display little faith in either party, and register a strong initial inclination to vote against their own incumbent member of Congress. Not only a solid majority of independents, but also a surprisingly large share of Republican and Democratic partisans, say they are reluctant to give either party control of both chambers, preferring instead a divided government where both can “act as a check on each other.”

All of this points toward more volatility ahead after three consecutive elections in which control of at least 20 House seats has changed hands between the parties—the first time that many seats have shifted that often since the immediate aftermath of World War II.

The interesting question is whether the question is changing from “which party are you voting for?” to “are you in favor of continued rule from Washington”. The system is going through a crisis of legitimacy, as expressed in the loss of confidence in the financial system which is mirrored to some extent, by a similar lack of confidence in the political system. In that case the question shifts away from ‘what policy to adopt?’ to ‘who decides?’.

Both parties in congress are even more unpopular than the President, but that is not saying much at a time when the President himself is deeply unpopular. The Investor’s Business Daily notes that President Obama has implicitly blamed even Bill Clinton for the mountain of problems he is facing. From there is is but a short step to concluding that it is the system which is failing.

One of the consequences of this lack of contrast between the two political brands is that people may become indifferent as to which brand prevails. PJ Tatler says this creates a real possibility that President Obama will be re-elected in 2012, not because they think he will change things for the better but because the public may now be convinced that it doesn’t matter who’s in power and so avoid the trouble of trying to change what can’t be changed.

Now that they’ve shot down Cain, it’s time for the insiders and their media lackeys to turn their attention on Gingrich, until it’s over for the Anyone-But-Romney camp. Then begins the long, slow march to Obama 2. … It’s already begun. Peggy Noonan recently wrote that Gingrich is “disturbing” and “ethically dubious,” and that those who know him “are mostly not for him.” …

GOP insiders want Romney, because he best represents business as usual. They offer us a “better” candidate than Obama, but not the best, because the best would support smaller government, which is anathema to the money and power brokers of both major parties. …

Romney won’t win because he’s Obama’s Mini-Me. … Real Clear Politics shows a long-term trend of voters disapproving of this Congress and favoring Democrats returning to power.

That sets up the return of Obama in 2012, not as the Candidate of Hope, but as the Candidate of Resignation and Despair. Will it happen? Open thread.


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