Brief candle?

October 6, 2009

When the electorate gave control of Congress to the Democrats in 2006 and then the White House in 2008, everyone from the most elite talking head on TV to the local bus driver had their reasons: dissatisfaction with the war in Iraq; Republican corruption; a sense (among their base) that the Republicans had forgotten why they were elected; and even just not liking Dubya much anymore. Whatever the truth, the fact is that the voters were tired of the Rs and wanted to give the car keys to the Ds.

The Democrats seem to have interpreted this as a fundamental shift of the electorate away from free-market capitalism toward a desire for much greater involvement by the state in the economy and everyday lives, a willingness to accept European-style social democracy. Thus the push for a state takeover of large sectors of the economy (two major auto companies, health care), massive Keynesian stimulus spending funded by public debt and (likely) massive taxation, corporatist-style interweaving of government, big business, and labor, and extensive regulatory control over anything that might have to do with the environment (cap and trade).

They likely guessed wrong.

Byron York reports on a Gallup survey that shows Americans by a large margin want government to promote traditional values over “no values:”

Gallup’s question was simple: “Some people think the government should promote traditional values in our society. Others think the government should not favor any particular set of values. Which comes closer to your own view?” In the new poll, taken in the first days of September, 53 percent of respondents say they want the government to promote traditional values, while 42 percent say they do not want the government to favor any particular set of values. Five percent do not have an opinion.
The results are a significant change from recent years. For most of the last two decades, a majority of people have been in favor of the government promoting traditional values. But that number began to decline in 2005, and the number of people who believe the government should not favor any particular set of values began to rise. Last September, when Gallup asked the same question, the public was split down the middle on the issue, 48 percent to 48 percent. Now, opinion has rather abruptly gone back to the old position, and there’s an 11-point gap between the two, in favor of traditional values.

Gallup’s question was simple: “Some people think the government should promote traditional values in our society. Others think the government should not favor any particular set of values. Which comes closer to your own view?” In the new poll, taken in the first days of September, 53 percent of respondents say they want the government to promote traditional values, while 42 percent say they do not want the government to favor any particular set of values. Five percent do not have an opinion.

The results are a significant change from recent years. For most of the last two decades, a majority of people have been in favor of the government promoting traditional values. But that number began to decline in 2005, and the number of people who believe the government should not favor any particular set of values began to rise. Last September, when Gallup asked the same question, the public was split down the middle on the issue, 48 percent to 48 percent. Now, opinion has rather abruptly gone back to the old position, and there’s an 11-point gap between the two, in favor of traditional values.

The question the survey doesn’t answer, of course, is what are those “traditional values.” According to Gallup, however, the pattern of responses “…suggest(s) that respondents understand traditional values to be those generally favored by the Republican party.”

That’s one more indicator that the Democrats are heading for a very bad fall in the 2010 elections, because the survey shows a huge shift among self-described independents and moderates:

But it is the turnaround among independents — Gallup also found similar numbers among people who called themselves moderates — that put a screeching halt to the shift that had been taking place in the last few years. “Americans’ views of the proper government role in promoting traditional values had moved in a more liberal direction since 2005, to the point that last year, as many said the government should not promote traditional values as said it should,” Gallup writes. “If that trend had continued, 2009 would have marked the first time Gallup found more Americans preferring that the government refrain from actively promoting traditional values. Instead, Americans’ attitudes reverted to a more conservative point of view on the matter. Now, Americans favor the government’s promoting traditional values by an 11-point margin, similar to the double-digit margins favoring that view through much of the prior two decades.”

To me, this shows that the Democrats badly misread their mandate from 2006 and, especially, 2008. Recall the situation in late August, 2008,  before the financial crack up and panic of September: McCain had come out of the Republican convention with what looked like a solid 3-5% lead, based on the popularity of his selection of Sarah Palin as a running mate and the Obama campaign’s summer ego-trip that turned many voters off. Then came the financial crisis, and the American public did what it often does in such times: it voted the current bums out of office, replacing them with the other bums and giving the new crowd one mission – make us prosperous again. It was not a mandate to subvert individual liberty and remake society into a European social democracy.

Hence the shifting numbers as voters realize they aren’t getting what they voted for. (In fact, they’re getting everything but, including a “stimulus” program that’s been a huge, debt-accumulating failure.) And thus, too, we see the Democrats’ unseemly haste to ram through all these bills before they can be read and analyzed (or even written) before the public puts on the brakes. They know they misunderstood their mandate and that their time is very limited; they need their long-cherished program passed soon, so that the inertia will be against undoing it.

If this poll is correct, their fears seem justified. By November, 2010, this progressive moment could well turn out to have the lifespan of a candle left out in a hurricane.


Happy Labor Day!

September 7, 2009

Any day off is a happy day. 🙂

Meanwhile, Byron York reports that support for labor unions is at an all-time low:

This Labor Day brings word of a new Gallup poll showing that American public support for labor unions has taken a sharp dive in the last year and is at its lowest point since Gallup began polling in 1936.

In response to the question, “Do you approve or disapprove of labor unions?” just 48 percent of respondents said they approve, while 45 percent said they disapprove. That’s a steep fall from August 2008, when the numbers were 59 percent approve, 31 percent disapprove, and it’s the first time approval of unions has ever fallen below 50 percent.

Before this year, American support for unions had remained remarkably stable for nearly four decades. In August 2001, in the first months of George W. Bush’s presidency, Gallup’s results for the same question were 60 percent approve, 32 percent disapprove. In August 1997, in Bill Clinton’s second term, they were 60-31. In 1985, during Ronald Reagan’s presidency, the figures were 58-27. In 1978, during Jimmy Carter’s time in the White House, they were 59-31. And in 1972, during Richard Nixon’s, they were 60-27.

The new poll also shows that many Americans believe the future is bleak for unions. In response to the question, “Thinking about the future, do you think labor unions in this country will become stronger than they are today, the same as today, or weaker than they are today?” 48 percent said unions will become weaker, versus just 24 percent who said unions will become stronger.

And here’s Gallup’s chart:

tvcvpa3inugt-f4thu-qlwSupport’s been remarkably steady since 1937, just two years after the passage of the Wagner Act, but the drop since late 2008 is nothing short of startling. Coincidentally, that was about the time we elected the most beholden-to-Big-Labor administration in recent history, probably since FDR. And what’s happened since last November?

  • The legal rights of bondholders were trampled during the bailouts of GM and Chrysler, largely to benefit UAW pension funds.
  • Representatives of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) were allowed to sit-in on a meeting between the federal government and California state officials (who were trying to deal with a massive budget crisis) in which the Obama administration threatened to withhold bailout money unless California maintained the wages of SEIU members, regardless of the best interests of the state as a whole.
  • Union thugs affiliated with the SEIU have beaten Americans exercising their constitutional right to free speech to protest ObamaCare at town-hall meetings.
  • The Democrats in Congress and the Obama Administration continue to push for the Orwellian “Employee Free Choice Act,” which would end the secret ballot in union elections and which even George McGovern opposes.
  • The Administration nominated as Labor Secretary Representative Hilda Solis, who flagrantly violated House ethics rules by acting as treasurer for a pro-union organization lobbying Congress on matters she would be voting on.

And that’s just a few.

I’m not against unions per se: in fact, I belong to one. They serve a useful purpose protecting workers from abusive employers, and the right to collective bargaining -if that’s the workers’ free choice- is a good one. But the stories of corruption in union leadership are legendary (Has anyone found Hoffa yet?), and the thuggish, self-serving actions of the UAW and especially the SEIU are reminding people of the threat of unchecked union power.

We shouldn’t be surprised at the precipitous drop in the public’s opinion of unions; the public seems to be realizing that the Big Unions are helping their own people at everyone else’s expense. On this Labor Day union leaders should be anything but relaxed.

LINKSEd Morrissey; Blue Crab Boulevard; Power Line; 247 Things.

UPDATE: Michael Barone has a good analysis of Labor’s drop in popularity. You should read the whole article, but the last paragraph is key:

There’s irony aplenty here. Thanks to the work of Sweeney, Stern and union political organizers, unions entered calendar year 2009 with more political influence than they have had since the 1960s or 1970s. But the way they have deployed that political influence has made the unions more unpopular than they have been in the last 73 years.

Yep.