Sunday, October 31, 2004

Political Animal by Kevin Drum

Washington Monthly
October 21, 2004
GEORGE BUSH AND HIS SUPPORTERS....The good folks at
PIPA have yet another interesting report out. The primary gist of the report is that when
it comes to foreign policy, Bush supporters have a much worse grasp of factual
matters than Kerry supporters. It's worth reading, and yes, it's sort of scary,
but I have a sneaking hunch that exactly the opposite might be true on some
domestic issues. So I'm going to leave that alone for now.
Instead, take a look at this table that deals not with factual matters, but with whether Bush
and Kerry supporters even understand their own candidate's positions:

Issue:
1. Labor and environmental standards in trade agreements. (Oct.)
Bush: opposes Bush supporters who correctly perceive Bush: 13%
Kerry: supports Kerry supporters who correctly perceive Kerry: 81%
2. Participation in Land Mines Treaty.
Bush: opposes Bush supporters who correctly perceive Bush: 20%
Kerry: supports Kerry supporters who correctly perceive Kerry: 79%
3. Participation in treaty that bans the testing of nuclear weapons.
Bush: opposes Bush supporters who correctly perceive Bush: 24%
Kerry: supports Kerry supporters who correctly perceive Kerry: 74%
4. Participation in the International Criminal Court. (Oct.)
Bush: opposes Bush supporters who correctly perceive Bush: 38%
Kerry: supports (*) Kerry supporters who correctly perceive Kerry: 65%
5. Participation in the Kyoto agreement on global warming.
Bush: opposes Bush supporters who correctly perceive Bush: 39%
Kerry: supports (*) Kerry supporters who correctly perceive Kerry: 74%
6. Building a missile defense system. (Oct.)
Bush: build now Bush supporters who correctly perceive Bush: 47%
Kerry: research only Kerry supporters who correctly perceive Kerry: 68%
7. Defense spending.
Bush: Expand Bush supporters who correctly perceive Bush: 57%
Kerry: keep same Kerry supporters who correctly perceive Kerry: 43%
8. Who should take the lead in Iraq on writing a new Constitution and
building a democratic government.
Bush: the US Bush supporters who correctly perceive Bush: 70%
Kerry: the UN Kerry supporters who correctly perceive Kerry: 80%
(*) supports in principle but wants to negotiate terms for US involvement.

That's pretty remarkable. There are only two issues on
which even a majority of Bush supporters know Bush's actual position. As the
PIPA report puts it, "Apparently in the absence of evidence to the
contrary, Bush supporters assume Bush feels as they do."
That seems to be at least partially true, and it's been the essence of George Bush since 2000. He won the primary and the
election that year by being the friendly face of movement conservatism, a guy
who seemed much more moderate than he really was. And now, even four years
later, he still looks to his supporters much more moderate than he really is. If
the electorate understood just how conservative Bush really is, he wouldn't have
a snowball's chance of winning the election this year.
What's more, this goes beyond George Bush: it's actually one of conservatism's greatest
weaknesses. On a wide range of issues — the environment, Social Security,
Medicare, abortion, and so forth — conservatives are unable to get support for
their actual positions, so they're forced to couch their conservative policies
in surprisingly liberal terms. We're environmentalists! We want to save Social
Security! We're tolerant of gays!
In the long term, though, this is disastrous, since eventually they'll either have to surrender and adopt genuine liberal policies or else come clean about their conservatism and get swamped at
the polls.
But that's for the future. In the meantime, the compassionate
conservative schtick is working pretty well. I wonder how much longer they can
pull it off?


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