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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Bush Democrats?

David Brooks’ piece in The New York Times today on “Bush Democrats” just isn’t terribly convincing about the alleged political salience of this phenomenom.
Consider the kind of evidence Brooks brings to bear–chiefly about splits in the Democratic ranks on Iraq-related poll questions and unity among Republicans. But that kind of result depends on which Iraq questions you look at.
For example, CBS News recently found that 74 percent of Democrats thought the result of the war with Iraq was not worth the loss of American life and other costs of attacking Iraq, compared to just 14 percent who thought it was. Pretty unified. And 68 percent of Republicans thought the Iraq war’s result was worth cost, compared to 21 percent who didn’t. Also pretty unified.
This kind of polarization is actually more common than not on polling questions these days–as many analysts have commented–and Brooks appears to have wilfully overlooked it in order to make his point.
Heck, you can even find examples that are the complete reverse of what Brooks points to. In the last ABC News poll, Democrats overwhelmingly believe (79 percent to 19 percent) that, given the goals and costs of the Iraq war, the level of military casualties has been unacceptable. But the Republicans, they’re split! While 54 percent think the level of casualties has been acceptable, a healthy 40 percent think it has not.
So should we start talking about Dean (or Clark) Republicans?
DR doesn’t think so, but it does suggest the problems with Brooks’ logic and evidence.
Brooks also mentions that 20 percent of Democrats say they’ll vote for Bush in a hypothetical Bush-Dean matchup, while Republicans are much more unified around their prospective nominee. But that’s hardly suprising, given that Republicans know exactly who their nominee will be, while Democrats do not–in fact, many of them have not yet really focused on the upcoming presidential contest. In these circumstances, 20 percent support from Democrats is not all that impressive–especially given the unrealistically large lead Bush has in this particular horse race question (20 points). The race will wind up being a lot tighter and Bush’s Democratic support will fall commensurately.
Finally, in the same poll cited by Brooks (the CBS News poll linked to above), just 11 percent of Democrats say they’d vote for Bush against “the Democratic candidate”. That’s probably a more reasonable estimate of Bush’s current Democratic support. And how much support did Bush actually get from Democrats in 2000? You guessed it: 11 percent.
The more things change…..

8 comments on “Bush Democrats?

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  2. Retrogrouch on

    C’mon Ruy.
    It’s David Brooks.
    Why are you wasting your time and mine with David Brooks?
    Rather than taking apart the faulty reasoning and baseless assumptions of any given Brooks column, try to find an article of his that is well reasoned and well grounded.
    You can’t, because it’s David Brooks… as I’ve said before, you’re wasting our time and yours.

  3. Wagster on

    I’ll admit it! I very nearly teared up when I read David Brooks’ columns on the need for civility in our political discourse. Then he goes and implies that people who criticize neocons are anti-semites. In our society today, is there a shriller pitch for an argument to reach than when ethnicity is injected into it? Brooks is the guy with the emptied gasoline can who laments the evils of pyromania. Tut tut tut. Pious is he.

  4. cs on

    At this point “Brooks’ logic” is an oxymoron, though I agree with bluestater that there is a ton o’ dissonance in Brooks’ columns as far back as last summer at least, if you read between the lines. Logic is the first thing to go when evidence puts ideology under total assault. The effort to reduce tension and bring outside/inside back into line gets more and more twisted, especially if the compulsion to hang onto ideology — a product of how much you have invested in it — is strong. David Brooks has an entire career invested in his ideology/identity as a fair-minded, rational conservative. Humor is one way of alleviating such tensions, and Brooks’ recent failed attempts in that area — the piece on conservatives coming to NYC for the convention and the one on neocons, anti-semitism and conspiracy theories — show him about as close to snapping as it gets. The opening line of that last one says it all: “Do you ever get the sense the whole world is becoming unhinged from reality? I started feeling that way awhile ago. . .” Of course the rest of the column deals with how it’s everyone else who’s unhinged, but geez, the projection is palpable. Society has become so segmented (by the proliferation of media markets!!) that “You get to choose your own reality. You get to believe what makes you feel good. You can ignore inconvenient facts so rigorously that your picture of the world is one big distortion.”
    I think Brooks has to let stuff like this seep out or his head will just up and explode.

  5. bluestater on

    Brooks’s columns get trashed regularly in left-of-center blogs such as this one. But if you read between the lines (or sometimes even the lines themselves), you may come away with a sense that Brooks wants Bush to lose in ’04. I don’t think the reason is a change of heart politically, if Brooks’s appearances on NewsHour are any indication. I suspect that Brooks understands that once Bush has succeeded in polarizing the electorate driving the country over a cliff, the Republican Party will be in ruins.

  6. Dan Perreten on

    Of course, there already is a Republicans for Dean group; they’ve been active since last spring.
    Oh, and penalcolony: right on! Brooks lying again to prop up his tribe? Reeeeaally!?

  7. Steve Cohen on

    Maybe so, but my sense is that the Democrats for Bush thing is real. How big it is remains to be seen but it I don’t think it’s negligible. Which makes me think that it is not inappropriate to start thinking about Republicans for Dean or whoever the Democratic nominee turns out to be. It’s no secret that there is rightwing opposition to Bush’s war and the Democratic nominee should make some effort to tap into it. After the primaries are over, of course.

  8. penalcolony on

    Brooks views statistics as Reagan is said to have viewed piles of horse manure: with the unshakeable conviction that there must be a pony in there somewhere. The difference between the two? When Brooks finds no actual pony, he sculpts one from the materials at hand.


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