Consistency Is Not Required

It’s hard to say how far Republicans can fall before they hit bottom. Recently, Rasmussen Reports has found that on eight of ten major issues, voters trust Democrats more than Republicans. That’s very bad. Today, though, Rasmussen announced that the Dems have achieved a decafecta: they are preferred by voters on all ten major issue clusters.

The most important issue, currently, is the economy, where the Dems enjoy a 14-point margin. What’s odd about this is that the Democrats’ actual policies are not preferred by many of these same respondents. Rasmussen also reports that 60% of likely voters say that tax increases will hurt the economy. Interestingly, this sentiment is strongest among young voters, 70% of whom think tax increases will damage the economy. Presumably a large majority of voters realize that the Democrats are yearning to raise taxes, so it is hard to reconcile this finding with respondents’ expressed preference for Democrats on this issue.

While I can’t support the proposition with poll data, I’m pretty sure the same principle would hold with regard to national security and terrorism, where the Democrats now hold an advantage. I’m confident that most voters, if you laid out the parties’ approaches on this issue and asked which they prefer, would choose Republican policies, i.e., security through strength rather than security through conversation.

So, what is going on here? I think it’s noteworthy that Rasmussen finds that the Dems’ generic advantage on the issues does not carry over to the Presidential race:

While voters tend to prefer Democrats over Republicans on a generic basis, John McCain consistently outperforms the GOP brand. In fact, polling shows that he is trusted more than either Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton on key issues such as the economy and national security.

It isn’t news that McCain outpolls the Republican brand, but why? The reasons are complex, but I would offer this partial explanation: in the American media, which is to say American public life, Republicans are a despised group, much like used car salesmen, Congressmen, lawyers, or, in former times, certain ethnic and religious minorities. Anyone who watches NBC, CBS, ABC, MTV, CNN, MSNBC, or almost any other television outlet, or who reads the New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, or virtually any other daily newspaper, or who reads Time or Newsweek, is exposed to a steady diet of Republican-caricaturing and Republican-bashing. We have had partisan media in this country before, but I don’t believe we have ever experienced such a unanimously one-party media at any time in our history.

Americans are certainly influenced by this barrage, but there is a silver lining of sorts. People who subscribe to stereotypes have long been willing to make exceptions based on their own observation and experience. Thus: most Congressmen are crooks, but mine is a good guy; most lawyers are shysters, but mine is honest; most [fill in the blank] are no good, but my friend/nanny/gardener/doctor/employee is a good person.

I think this phenomenon partly explains why McCain outruns the party’s brand, and why just about any specific Republican whom the public gets to know will do so–albeit, most likely, to a lesser degree than McCain. That’s the good news. The bad news is that all Republicans, from the Presidential nominee on down, are running against a headwind that is approaching hurricane force.

Which brings us back to the weird reality that a great many Americans who know that raising taxes is a bad idea are poised to vote for the party that intends to do just that. The title of this post is not ironic; consistency is not required of voters, and it appears that lots of Americans are willing to turn the reins of power over to the Democrats even though they know that the Democrats’ ideas and policies are bad.

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