Scott wrote here and here about Congressman Bob Etheridge’s encounter with two young conservatives, one of whom asked him whether he is on board with the Obama agenda. This led Etheridge to assault the young man, who, unfortunately for the Congressman, was equipped with a video camera. Let’s remind our readers one more time of how bizarre Etheridge’s behavior was:
In his second post, Scott referred to Chris Cillizza, a political analyst at the Washington Post, as one of Etheridge’s enablers. Cillizza wrote that the moral of the story is, in the era of ubiquitous Flip cameras, “as a Member of Congress, you can’t grab people on the street — no matter the context.” The context apparently being the extreme provocation of being asked whether Etheridge supports Obama’s agenda.
Earlier today, Cillizza returned to the subject of Etheridge’s assault. Cillizza seems like an OK guy, but, like most of his colleagues at the Post, he sees everything through liberal-colored glasses. Thus, he drew an absurd analogy to Etheridge’s conduct–for which, by the way, the Congressman has appropriately and abjectly apologized:
[T]he history of political gaffes and their impact on the re-election chances of the Member of Congress involved would suggest that while [Etheridge’s Republican opponent, Renee] Ellmers will certainly raise more money than she might otherwise have done (she had $5,462 on hand as of mid May) her chances of winning the race won’t vastly improve.
The most instructive example from the recent political past is in Minnesota during the 2008 election.
Roughly two weeks before the election, Rep. Michelle Bachmann (R) appeared on MSNBC’s “Hardball” and said that then Sen. Barack Obama “may have anti-American views.”
A massive controversy ensued, with Democrats casting Bachmann’s remarks as a tipping point for voters in her exurban Twin Cities seat. The Democratic nominee — Elwyn Tinklenberg(!) — raked in $2 million in the space of a week or so as Bachmann became a sort of poster girl for everything people didn’t like about Republicans nationally.
Then she won.
Let’s deconstruct that. First, what Etheridge did wasn’t a “gaffe.” It was an assault. Second, it is hard to see any parallel between Etheridge’s inability to tolerate a simple question about his political views–the sense of entitlement that he, like so many Democratic office-holders, oozes–and Michele Bachmann’s expression of a perfectly legitimate opinion. In fact, while Cillizza obviously disagrees with the opinion she expressed, that Barack Obama may have anti-American views, many millions of Americans would say that Bachmann turned out to be correct. Obama does indeed harbor anti-American sentiments, which is a major reason why a plurality of 46% of American voters “strongly disapprove” of his performance in office.
Beyond that, it looks–for the moment, at least–as though Cillizza’s point, that Etheridge will in all likelihood be re-elected despite his “gaffe,” may be wrong. A Raleigh, North Carolina television station reports that a poll taken after Etheridge’s assault became a YouTube phenomenon shows Ellmers leading Etheridge 39 percent to 38 percent, with twelve percent supporting Libertarian Tom Rose and 11 percent undecided. It’s entirely possible, of course, that Etheridge might weather the storm and eke out a victory in November. But for an incumbent Congressman to be able to muster only 38 percent in a poll is a very poor showing. It is evident that voters in North Carolina take a very different view of the arrogance of Democratic Party power than political analysts at the Washington Post.