February 15, 2009

Twenty-Five Days That Shook the World: While much of the Beltway focus was on trivia about his Cabinet nominees and "conventional wisdom" about government spending which was stale during the first Reagan term, our new President was busy remaking the country. Frank Rich observes:
For (David) Axelrod, the moral is “not just that Washington is too insular but that the American people are a lot smarter than people in Washington think.”

Here’s a third moral: Overdosing on this culture can be fatal. Because Republicans are isolated in that parallel universe and believe all the noise in its echo chamber, they are now as out of touch with reality as the “inevitable” Clinton campaign was before it got clobbered in Iowa. The G.O.P. doesn’t recognize that it emerged from the stimulus battle even worse off than when it started. That obliviousness gives the president the opening to win more ambitious policy victories than last week’s. Having checked the box on attempted bipartisanship, Obama can now move in for the kill.


The stimulus opponents, egged on by all the media murmurings about Obama “losing control,” also thought they had a sure thing. Their TV advantage added to their complacency. As the liberal blog ThinkProgress reported, G.O.P. members of Congress
wildly outnumbered Democrats as guests on all cable news networks, not just Fox News, in the three days of intense debate about the House stimulus bill. They started pounding in their slogans relentlessly. The bill was not a stimulus package but an orgy of pork spending. The ensuing deficit would amount to “generational theft.” F.D.R.’s New Deal had been an abject failure.

This barrage did shave a few points off the stimulus’s popularity in polls, but its approval rating still remained above 50 percent in all (
Gallup, CNN, Pew, CBS) but one of them (Rasmussen, the sole poll the G.O.P. cites). Perhaps the stimulus held its own because the public, in defiance of Washington’s condescending assumption, was smart enough to figure out that the government can’t create jobs without spending and that Bush-era Republicans have no moral authority to lecture about deficits. Some Americans may even have ancestors saved from penury by the New Deal.

In any event, the final score was unambiguous. The stimulus package arrived with the price tag and on roughly the schedule Obama had set for it. The president’s job approval percentage now ranges from the mid 60s (
Gallup, Pew) to mid 70s (CNN) — not bad for a guy who won the presidency with 52.9 percent of the vote. While 48 percent of Americans told CBS, Gallup and Pew that they approve of Congressional Democrats, only 31 (Gallup), 32 (CBS) and 34 (Pew) percent could say the same of their G.O.P. counterparts.
The Rasmussen poll, incidentally, samples what it determines are "likely voters," ephemera which could hardly be less relevant some twenty-one months until the next election. If the GOP continues to rely on a coalition of fanatical Christianists and New Deal Denialists, its journey into the political wilderness may well be a long one.