E.J. Dionne writes about the “revolt of the middle.” He’s referring to the alleged turning away by moderate voters from President Bush as the result of Bush’s alleged decision to interpret the 2004 election as a mandate to implement immoderate policies. There are a few problems with this theory. One is the author himself, a liberal Democrat known more for wishful thinking than for being in-tune with moderate America. The second is the lack of evidence that Bush has moved to the right since the election. Dionne cites the president’s attempt to reform social security. But that’s something Bush has been promising to do since he ran in 2000. Hard to see a betrayal of the moderates here.
The president has filled a number of high level positions since being re-elected. But the elevation of first administration players like Condi Rice and Alberto Gonzales does not reflect a move to the right. Indeed, no one disputes that Gonzales (sadly) is more moderate than his predecessor, John Ashcroft. The controversial judges Bush wants the Senate to vote on are the same ones he has asked them to vote on for years. John Bolton was an immoderate choice for U.N. ambassador. But was nominating him a less moderate act than going to war without the U.N.’s approval? Finally, Bush signed a law granting the federal courts jurisdiction over the Terri Schiavo case. But Dionne cites no evidence that the rather perfunctory act of signing a bill passed by Congress has alienated the middle.
Dionne relies on a poll taken by a Democratic consortium. But Dionne cites no result from this poll that allows any conclusions about Bush’s current standing with voters, much less a comparison of that standing to “pre-revolt” levels. If one looks, by contrast, at the president’s approval rating, one finds that it’s at 48 percent (on average), which is about where it has been for the past year. To the extent it was any higher on election day (and I don’t think there’s any statistically significant evidence that it was), the difference likely has more to do with gas prices than any policy-driven revolt.
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