Tuesday, November 06, 2007

The high twenties:

A few months ago there was speculation about how low Bush's approval could go. One theory was that it couldn't drop below 27 percent. Reason? Because that was the percentage that Alan Keyes got in the Illinois Senate election of 2004. The reasoning was if Keyes, a hard-right weirdo with next to no government experience coming from out of state, could get that proportion of the vote, it exposed the solid core of support for the Republican agenda.

And now we have a new number. From CNN: (emp add)
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A majority of Americans consider waterboarding a form of torture ...

Asked whether they think waterboarding is a form of torture, more than two-thirds of respondents, or 69 percent, said yes; 29 percent said no.
Earlier this year (March, before the deadly Apr-June period) a USAToday/Gallup poll had this:
WASHINGTON — A new USA TODAY/Gallup Poll shows deepening pessimism on Iraq, even as many Americans are reluctant to limit money or troops for the war effort.

Only 28% say the United States will probably or definitely win the war, down from 35% in December and the lowest since the question was first asked in September 2005.
27%, 29%, 28%.

These numbers can rise or fall by 5%, depending on the situation, but there appears to be a pretty solid conservative core that is in the high twenties.

In 1974 when Nixon was in big trouble, Time magazine looked at his remaining supporters and asked, "Who are the 25%?" (25 being Nixon's support level)

These people weren't necessarily religious, social, or cultural conservatives. They were political conservatives. Or, to use John Dean's characterization, "authoritarians". Interestingly, they consider themselves patriots, even though they are woefully ignorant of the founding principles of this country (Habeas corpus, restraining executive aggrandizement during war). They are tough political opponents. They'll use propaganda, character assassination, the power of the state (when they have it) to harass opponents, and try to steal elections. Because they are authoritarians. Power is all that matters, not persuasion or compromise. They don't care about public approval except to the extent that it's necessary to win elections, and then it's mosly obfuscation and rarely-honored promises to a core subset such as the religious right. They love the Senate and Electoral College because it makes it easier to attain power without majority approval (2000 Presidential vote). Once they get the power, it's time for cronies to get on board the gravy train and vanity projects are undertaken, like the Iraq War. It's bad for the country: money is wasted and important issues are ignored. Eventually the country gets into trouble - usually financially.

But even as the ship of state is listing, the authoritarians refuse to give up. In fact, their prescription is for more authoritarianism. More, more, more.

And we've seen a taste of that with the Republican presidential debates. Romney wanting to double Guantanamo. Rudy's ultra-neocon advisors. Et al.

This triumph of authoritarianism happens throughout history and eventually it fades from the scene, only to return decades later. But there are ways of minimizing its occurrence: tradition (including professionalism within the executive), government structure (checks & balances), and an aggressive press, can restrain the authoritarian impulse. Unfortunately, in the last 20 years in the United States, there has been a diminution of these restraints on power. Some of it is the conservative tilt of the press. Some of it is money in politics. Some of it is lack of leadership by the opposition. Some of it is a lazy electorate.

Eventually the situation gets so bad that everyone sits up and takes notice, and the hard work of setting things right begins.


Authoritative, yes, but also greedy and short-sighted, they're the types to kill the hen laying the golden eggs.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11/06/2007 10:54 AM  

I'm from Illinois, and your characterization of the 2004 senate race is incorrect. That 27% weren't all voting for Alan Keyes and his agenda. That 27% includes all of the voters who would vote for a kick in the nuts before they would vote for Barack Obama, which was a lot more than people who actually wanted to see Keyes elected.

if Keyes, a hard-right weirdo with next to no government experience coming from out of state, could get that proportion of the vote, it exposed the solid core of support for the Republican agenda.

Wishful thinking.

What happened was that the Republican candidate Jack Ryan bowed out of the race with three months to go after Allegations that he attended sex clubs with his wife, Jeri "Seven of Nine" Ryan, of all things, emerged.

This left the field with a Democratic candidate and no Republican candidate.
Obama was peaking on a personality wave and the Republicans were in disarray.

Whatever the Republicans thought they were getting (A black ultra-conservative to counter the black ultra-liberal?), what they got was a pure ideologist with no regard whatsoever for opinion polls and with not even the slightest degree of the usual political compromises that might serve to actually bring in the centrist voters needed to win the election.
Keyes wasn't going to beat Obama, he knew it, he didn't care, and neither did the people who cast their protest votes for him.

Don't confuse his eventual vote count with actual support for his platform and/or agenda. If he had run as an independent he would have tracked

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11/06/2007 8:29 PM  

My comment got accidently posted early.

If he had run as an independent in a competitive race, he would have finished in the single digits. He would not have significantly drawn from a legitimate Republican candidate.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11/06/2007 8:32 PM  

FWIW that analysis of the 27% floor of support was originated by John Rogers of Kung Fu Monkey (or perhaps by his friend Tyrone), who called it the Crazification Factor...

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11/11/2007 4:22 PM  

Interesting convergence here. You get 27%-29%, Rogers puts the Crazification Factor at 27%, and The Editors peg the BTKWB Limit at 32%-36%. This seems to mesh well with the 25% believing Jesus is comin' back for the Rapture this year. Looks like all the evidence says 1/4-1/3 Americans are completely mindless sheep.

By Anonymous Stinky Wizzleteats, at 11/12/2007 2:08 AM  

One theory was that it couldn't drop below 27 percent. Reason?"

There are even some authoritarians who recognize a loser when they see one.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11/16/2007 4:00 PM  

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