Monday, November 05, 2007

Frustration Builds for Democrats

The Wall Street Journal reports on the Left's bittersweet legislative victories:

On questions such as Mr. Mukasey's stance on waterboarding, warrantless wiretapping and the war in Iraq, Democrats have been stymied by Republicans in Congress and the White House. That has sparked frustration among supporters, especially those on the left, who anticipated that last year's congressional takeover would force some policy changes.

These dashed expectations are one reason polls give Congress an approval rating lower than Mr. Bush's. The difficulties faced by Democrats on these issues look certain to complicate the party's bid to expand House and Senate majorities and regain the White House in 2008, a wartime election in which national security will be a major issue.

Polls show that an important reason for the low Congressional approval rating is that Democrats are even more dissatisfied with Congress than are Republicans. That apparently reflects dissatisfaction among core liberals that the Congress has not stopped the war, has given in on FISA, etc. A significant question that will help decide what happens on election day, 2008 is what does that liberal base do if it determines that it has been abandoned by the Democratic nominee?

In 2006, liberals seemed to hold their noses and vote for any Democrat. Is that what they will do in 2008 -- put victory ahead of principle? Or will they decide that Hillary (or whoever) is as bad as the GOP nominee, and cast their votes for Cynthia McKinney, or Ralph Nader, or whomever? Seeing just how those 5-10 percent of Democrats go may decide the presidency.

I say 'may' because it's not clear to me that the Democratic nominee will be close enough to the Republican to make it matter. I have argued before that the Democrats' retain a fundamental weakness on national security, which is not reflected in current polls. I believe that the GOP candidate is likely to have a significant edge on the issue that may be the most important one on election day 2008 -- an edge not reflected in current polls, where Americans respond based on the Bush presidency and the war in Iraq. At this time next year, the picture may be very different.

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