Poll: Dems Must Drive The Car Or Lose Their License genre: Just Jihad & Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

Hesitant Democrats

The notion of a squandered opportunity is a well known concept and if one looks at the latest Washington Post – ABC News poll, one may well see one about to materialize. In 2006, voters voiced a clear message on their dissatisfaction with the direction of the country…providing a particular emphasis on ending the war in Iraq. The poll numbers suggest that voters believe their wishes have been ignored.

Most Americans see President Bush as intransigent on Iraq and prefer that the Democratic-controlled Congress make decisions over a possible withdrawal of U.S. forces, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.

As the president and Congress move toward a possible constitutional confrontation over the war, both receive negative marks from the public for their handling of the situation in Iraq. But by a large margin, Americans trust the Democrats rather than the president to find a solution to a conflict that remains enormously unpopular. And more than six in 10 in the new poll said Congress should have the final say on when to bring the troops home.

Asked whether Bush is willing enough to change policies in Iraq, nearly eight in 10 Americans said no.

Bush's overall approval rating equals its all-time low in Post-ABC News polls at 33 percent, with 65 percent disapproving. Only 31 percent give him positive marks on handling the situation in Iraq, which is near his career low on the issue.

At the same time, Congress fares little better with the public on the war. Just 35 percent said they approve of the way congressional Democrats are handling the situation in Iraq, with 63 percent disapproving. Two-thirds of independents give the Democrats negative marks on the war.

The danger that the Democrats face is the growing disappointment with their ability to impact the situation in Iraq and the seeming stalemate that exists in finding an alternative plan to the President’s virtually unflinching stance. The fact that Independents are disenchanted with the performance of the Democrat controlled Congress suggests that voter sentiment remains quite fluid in advance of the 2008 election.

Should Democrats fail to affect the status of the war in the final phase of the Bush presidency, they run the risk of seeing their 2006 gains with Independents evaporating. Were that to happen, 2008 could prove to be a quick halt to a promising Democratic resurgence. No doubt the trust voters place in Democrats to handle the war will wane the longer they fail to force a meaningful shift in the Bush strategy.

While many would like Congress to assert itself on the war, about half of poll respondents said congressional Democrats have done "too little" to get Bush to change his war policy. Democrats are especially anxious for more action from their party's representatives in Congress: 61 percent of Democrats and 69 percent of liberal Democrats said not enough has been done to push Bush on the issue.

And as for the new U.S. efforts to restore security in Iraq, most in the poll said the "surge" has not made much difference, and nearly two-thirds believed the additional troops will fail to improve the security situation over the next few months.

This broad pessimism provides an early read that the public may not be as willing as some in Congress to suspend judgment about the new strategy until General Petraeus, the commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, delivers his much-anticipated assessment in mid-September.

My own impression is that the Democrats in Congress have acted in a manner one might expect from a person who lacks confidence due to having been the victim of a sustained assault from a well crafted line of rhetoric…a line that has been tirelessly delivered by their adversaries in the GOP. The Democrats seem to be on the defensive despite the fact that they control both houses.

The GOP appears to have been relatively successful in asserting that the Democrats are engaging in political theatrics rather than meaningful policy. Astonishingly, the polling seems to support this Republican contention despite ample evidence that the GOP has implemented a plan to obstruct or hinder the passage of most legislation sponsored by the Democrats.

From The Seattle Times:

WASHINGTON — Senate Republicans this year are threatening filibusters to block more legislation than ever, a pattern that's rooted in — and could increase — the pettiness and dysfunction in Congress.

Seven months into the current two-year term, the Senate has held 42 "cloture" votes aimed at shutting off extended debate — filibusters, or sometimes only the threat of one — and moving to up-or-down votes on contested legislation. Under Senate rules that protect a minority's right to debate, these votes require a 60-vote supermajority in the 100-member Senate.

Democrats have trouble mustering 60 votes; they have fallen short 22 times this year. That's largely why they haven't been able to deliver on campaign promises.

If this pace of blocking legislation continues, this 110th Congress will be on track to roughly triple the previous record number of cloture votes — 58 each in the two Congresses from 1999-2002, according to the Senate Historical Office.

When one evaluates the ability of the two parties to influence public opinion or to paint their opponent in an unfavorable light, I believe that the GOP is still far more effective. For example, the recent all night effort by Harry Reid to highlight the Republican efforts to obstruct a vote on the Iraq war did little to allay voter concerns that the Democrats aren’t achieving the goals they were elected to enact.

In fact, if one watched the media coverage of the effort, by and large, it was portrayed as a stunt with little chance of success. While the Democrats sought to use the event to alert voters to the GOP tactics being used to prevent votes on legislation, I’m of the opinion that many voters concluded the move was a waste of valuable time and a demonstration of the partisan preoccupation that has prevented the passage of any substantial changes in the Iraq strategy.

More importantly, I find that the Democrats have a virtual vacuum of leadership when it comes to vocalizing their intended message. Not only are the attempts of high ranking operatives tepid and lacking the telemetry necessary to be effective, the party fails to demonstrate the bench depth to propel and propagate the strategic story line.

What I find so troubling about this predicament is that in spite of the fact that the Democratic position mirrors a vast majority of the voting public, they have been unable to translate that into performance that is viewed favorably…or at least point out that the lack of success is a direct result of a series of deliberate GOP roadblocks.

Coming back to the psyche of the Democratic leadership, it is my belief that they must quickly accept and adopt the confidence that they were afforded by the electorate in 2006. If they continue to appear hesitant and defensive, they will once again allow the GOP to define them as lacking the ideas, the insight, and the initiative to lead this country in the new direction which voters have clearly and consistently demanded.

Tagged as: 2008 Election, Democrats, Filibuster, GOP, Harry Reid, Iraq, Washington Post-ABC News Poll

Daniel DiRito | July 23, 2007 | 9:07 PM
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