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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Ruy Teixeira

Youth Say: Bad Bush, No Biscuit!

Greenberg Quinlan Rosner (GQR), in conjunction with internet survey firm Polimetrix, is conducting a “Youth Monitor” series of surveys of 18-25 year olds. The first survey in the series has just been released and it suggests that youth, as they showed in the 2004 election, are very much not with the Bush program.
According to the poll, youth give Bush a strongly net negative approval rating–42 percent approval,with 58 percent disapproval, for a -16 net. Even more tellingly, youth hold the following views: by 63-37, they feel the war in Iraq has not been worth the cost in US lives and dollars; by 65-33, they believe the Democrats, not the Republicans, do a better job representing the interests of young people; by 64-36, they think Bush and the Republicans “are going too far by invading peoples’ personal lives and family decisions”, rather than “are doing a good job in trying to uphold moral values and protecting families”; by 58-42, they believe we need to work harder at tolearting people who are different, particularly gays, rather than work harder at upholding traditional values and strong families; and, last but not least, by 57-43, they think that Bush has not made us safer from terrorist attack.
By these data, the Democrats should replicate their recent strong performance among young voters in 2006 and perhaps beyond.

Economic Interests and the Democratic Party: A Reply

By Alan Abramowitz
The problem with the Rose argument is that it is based on the assumption that it is primarily if not exclusively the disadvantaged who benefit from Democratic economic policies. But this assumption is patently false. In the first place, the Democratic Party has long championed government programs that benefit the middle class such as Social Security and Medicare. But even more fundamentally, the vast majority of Americans, probably all except the very, very wealthy, benefit from Democratic economic policies. This can be seen by comparing the performance of the economy under Democratic and Republican presidents over the past 60+ years. By almost every conceivable economic measure–real GDP growth, unemployment, real disposable income, and even the performance of the stock market–the economy does better, in fact substantially better, under Democratic leadership than under Republican leadership (for some evidence along these lines, see Michael Kinsley’s excellent column on this subject). And this remains true even if you correct for the delayed effect of economic policies by subtracting the performance of the economy during the first year of a new administration.
The facts demonstrate that the vast majority of Americans are better off when Democrats are in power than when Republicans are in power. The major problem that Democrats fact today is driving this point home as forcefully as possible–something that both Al Gore and John Kerry unfortunately failed to do.

AP-Ipsos Poll: Most Oppose Reinstating Draft

As the toll for the war in Iraq worsens, it appears that the military’s ability to attract new recruits is being badly damaged. In April, for example, the Army’s recruiting fell short 42 percent. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld has ruled out reinstating the draft for the time being. But other politicians have expressed support for the draft, including a few Democrats, such as N.Y. Rep. Charlie Rangel.
Bad idea, at least for any candidates facing a close election, according to an AP-Ipsos poll, conducted 6/20-22.
The poll found that 7 out of 10 respondents opposed reinstatement of the draft, with nearly half saying they “strongly” oppose bringing the draft back. About a quarter of the respondents supported reinstating the draft. A majority of respondents said they would discourage a son from joining the military, and two-thirds of those polled would discourage a daughter from joining.
“People simply don’t want their kids to be sent off to Iraq to be shot at in a situation in which the value of the war is becoming more and more questionable,” explained Dr. John Mueller, a political-science professor at Ohio State University and author of War, Presidents and Public Opinion, quoted in DiversityInc.com.
The poll found that a majority of all major demographic groups opposed reinstating the draft, although men were less likely to oppose it than women. Republicans supported the draft reinstatement proposal more than Democrats and respondents over age 50 supported it more than younger adults.

Should Democrats Expand the Playing Field in 2006?

On June 6, we took stock of the number of vulnerable Republican seats in 2006 and argued that Democrats did indeed have a shot at gaining enough seats to take back the House. A reader wrote in to say our argument was fine as far as it went….but it didn’t go far enough! I’m inclined to agree. Here’s the reader’s comment:

I just wanted to pass along a brief comment on your June 6 posting on “GOP Ethics Mess…”. I agree with you (and everyone else) that the various scandals swirling around DeLay and the GOP Congress helps the Dems, and that the appropriate response is to think big and try to nationalize the 2006 election (a la Gingrich in 1994). That’s why your count of vulnerable Republicans (4 from the Post, 7 from Abramowitz, etc.) struck me as discordant. The point is that ethics (and other failures) makes every Rep more vulnerable, not just 10 or 20 or 30.
There’s a practical reason that I’m bothering you with this sort of hair-splitting. Both parties (and their allies) have fallen into the practice of trying to identify their top tier races to focus their attention on them. They see it as a way to magnify their impact rather squander resources on longshots. There are several problems with this approach. No one is that good at forecasting, especially that far out. Diminishing marginal returns means that much of the money lavished on top races is wasted, and would certainly be better spent elsewhere. The relentless focus on the top tier means that other races are ignored, limiting the Dems’ potential to win a 1994 (or 1982 or 1974) style sweep. And so on. The bottom line is simple: targeting is a self-fulfilling prophecy.
My fear is that, if history is any guide, if the Dems think in terms of winning 15 seats, they’ll count to 15 or maybe 25 and pour everything into those races. That puts enormous pressure on winning those contests and lets scores of other potentially vulnerable Reps off the hook. Donkey Rising isn’t responsible for that sort of thinking, of course, but as one of the best blogs and certainly the most data-intensive, I wanted to bring this to your attention.

Thanks, reader! Let’s hope someone out there involved in 2006 planning for the Democrats is listening.

Dim Dems Diss Dean

I like the way Gadflyer Paul Waldman put it concerning the teapot tempest swirling around Howard Dean’s recent remarks:

Let’s go over this again: You’re a Democratic office-holder, or maybe a political consultant. A reporter comes to you and says, “Can I bring a camera into your office and get you to say some bad things about Howard Dean?” If you say yes, and go ahead with it, then there will be a story about how Democrats can’t stand that terrible Howard Dean, who keeps saying mean things about Republicans. If you say no, there will be no story. The reporter will have do a story about how Bush’s Social Security plan is failing, or about how his approval ratings are in the toilet, or about something, anything, else

In another post on the same topic, Waldman puts Dean’s comments in context for his critics, including some Democratic leaders who should know better, and offers them a smarter alternative:

They should have said this: “If the Republican leadership doesn’t want us to call them elitist, they should consider doing something for working families for a change. But until they do, we’re going to keep talking about how they’re hurting regular Americans.” That keeps the focus where it should be.

There’s nothing wrong with constructive internal criticism. But they call it internal criticism for a reason. If any real Democrat has a problem with our chairman’s, or any other Democratic leader’s remarks, then call his/her office and complain, rather than being duped into doing the GOP’s negative spin for the media.
Addressing a similar concern in the Civil Rights Movement, Martin Luther King, Jr. said it well: “Our enemies will adequately deflate our accomplishments; we need not serve them as eager volunteers.”

Bush Losing His Strong Suit

The latest Washington Post/ABC News poll has some very bad news for Bush and the GOP–even by the standards of recent polls, most of which have not been kind to the president and his party. Here’s the lead from ABC News polling director Gary Langer’s analysis of the poll:

The corrosive effects of the war in Iraq and a growing disconnect on political priorities have pushed George W. Bush’s performance ratings — notably on terrorism — to among the worst of his career, casting a pall over his second term and potentially over his party’s prospects ahead.
For the first time, most Americans, 55 percent, say Bush has done more to divide than to unite the country. A career-high 52 percent disapprove of his job performance overall, and, in another first, a bare majority rates him unfavorably on a personal level. Most differ with him on issues ranging from the economy and Social Security to stem-cell research and nuclear power.
Iraq is a major thorn. With discontent over U.S. casualties at a new peak, a record 58 percent say the war there was not worth fighting. Nearly two-thirds think the United States has gotten bogged down in Iraq, up 11 points since March. Forty-five percent go so far as to foresee the equivalent of another Vietnam.
Fifty-two percent, the first majority to say so, think the Iraq war has failed to improve the long-term security of the United States, its fundamental rationale. As an extension — and perhaps most hazardously in political terms — approval of Bush’s handling of terrorism, the base of his support, has lost 11 points since January to match its low, 50 percent in June 2004 when it was pressured both by the presidential campaign and the kidnapping and slaying of American Paul Johnson in Saudi Arabia (emphasis added).

Lo, how the mighty have fallen! When disapproval (49 percent) is almost as high as approval (50 percent) in Bush’s strongest area (the handling of terrorism), you know things are going very poorly indeed for the incumbent and his administration. Consider some other results from the poll not alluded to in the Langer excerpt above.
1. Disapproval of Bush’s performance far outweighs approval on Social Security (62-34), on the economy (58-40), on Iraq (58-41) and on stem cell research (55-33).
2. The drop in Bush’s approval rating on fighting terrorism has been most pronounced among political independents. In March, 63 percent of this group approved of Bush’s performance in this area;. That dropped to 54 percent in April and has sunk to a mere 40 percent this month. Independents are also pushing the rise in sentiment that the Iraq war has not made America safer; today around 60 percent endorse that view.
3. By 61-37, the public believes Bush and the Republicans are not making good progress on solving the nation’s problems. And, among those who believe progress is not being made, the blame is far more likely to be pinned on Bush and Republicans themselves (67 percent) than on the Democrats in Congress (13 percent).
4. On Social Security, just 27 percent support introducing private accounts within Social Security if these accounts are accompanied by a reduction in the rate of growth of guaranteed benefits. By 56-32, the public believes that such a change in Social Security would decrease, not increase, the overall retirement income most seniors receive. And, by 63-32, they believe that Bush’s proposals for Social Security would not improve the long-term financial stability of the system.
5. By 5 points (46-41), the public believes Democrats can do a better job coping with the main problems facing the nation in the next few years. Prior to the 2002 Congressional elections, Republicans were consistently running ahead of the Democrats on this measure.
6. By 2:1 (65-33), the public does not believe the Bush administration has a clear plan for eventually withdrawing from Iraq.
7. As Bush’s second terms began, Americans, by 55-29, expected Bush to do a better job in his second term than in his first. The last several months have dashed that sense of optimism. Now only 30 percent expect him to do better, actually less than the number (38 percent) who expect him to do worse.
8. Is Bush concentrating on things that are important to “you personally” The public, by a 58-41 margin, says no.
It’s difficult to look at these and other recent data and perceive much the Bush administration currently has going for it, other than general support for the war on terror. And, as we’ve seen, faith that Bush knows what he’s doing has now been sharply eroded even in this area.
That just doesn’t leave the GOP with much to brag about to voters. No wonder so many Republicans running for re-election in 2006 are acting so nervous!

Are GOP Hopes for Gains in California Realistic?

By Alan Abramowitz
Remember back when California was one of the keys to the Republican “lock” on the White House? Back in the 60s, 70s, and 80s, California was actually somewhat more Republican than the nation as a whole, partly because the Republican candidates in five of those presidential elections hailed from the Golden State. Since 1992, however, California, with the nation’s largest bloc of electoral votes, has been been considerably more Democratic than the nation. In 2004, John Kerry carried the state by just under 10 percentage points–not quite a landslide, but a pretty decisive margin.
But could the Democrats’ recent domination of California be coming to an end? Some Republicans, including Republican National Committee Chairman Ken Mehlman apparently think so. According to an Associated Press story posted on the CNN website today, these Republicans believe that GOP prospects in California are improving thanks to a combination of demographic changes and Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s “star power.”
Schwarzenegger’s “star power” seems to be fading rapidly–his approval rating has fallen below 50 percent in recent state polls. And these same polls show that President Bush is even less popular in the Golden State than he is in the rest of the country. But according to the AP story, “analysts have noted several population shifts that suggest potential for Republicans to expand their reach” in California. And what are those population shifts? According to the story, “while population growth is slowing in left-leaning coastal areas like Los Angeles and San Francisco, it is accelerating in more conservative areas such as the Central Valley and the Inland Empire area east of Los Angeles.”
The problem with this analysis is that these population shifts are nothing new in California. The Central Valley and the Inland Empire have been growing more rapidly than the Bay Area and Los Angeles County for decades. But this hasn’t turned California’s color from blue to red because these areas still make up a fairly small percentage of the state’s population and much of the is a result of a growing Hispanic population. Moreover, an analysis of 2004 exit poll data for California shows that younger Californians are less white, more Hispanic, more liberal, and more likely to vote Democratic than their elders.
According to the 2004 exit poll data, only 50 percent of California voters under the age of 30 were white while 34 percent were Hispanic. In contrast, 86 percent of California voters over the age of 60 were white and only 7 percent were Hispanic. 32 percent of California voters under the age of 30 described themselves as liberal while 23 percent described themselves as conservative. In contrast, only 23 percent of Californians over the age of 60 described themselves as liberal while 32 percent described themselves as conservative. It is not surprising therefore that 60 percent of Californians under the age of 30 voted for John Kerry. This was about six points higher than Kerry’s support among voters over 30.
These generational differences suggest that California’s electorate is almost certain to become less white, more Hispanic, more liberal, and more Democratic in the future. It’s will take a lot more than Arnold Schwarzenneger’s “star power” to reverse these trends. Not even the Terminator himself would be likely to move California’s 55 electoral votes out of the Democratic column in 2008.

Democrats and the Middle Class (Continued)

Yesterday, I covered the first three basic findings from the Third Way report on Democrats and the middle class. The fourth basic finding of the report is:

With the exception of those with graduate degrees, education level does not predict voting behavior. Education level predicts income, which predicts voting behavior.

This just isn’t right. In fact, if you look carefully at the data in their own report you can see that education does have an effect on level of Democratic support, even controlling for level of income. But the report’s authors are intent on showing that, at any given level of education, income has an important effect on Democratic support. This is undeniably true, but they appear to believe that establishing that fact somehow proves education has no independent effect on income. Wrong. Both relationships can and do exist: income has an effect on Democratic support at any given level of education and education has an effect on Democratic support at any given level of income.
Take the white middle class, on whom the report tends to focus. In 2004, Bush beat Kerry by 33 points among non-college-educated middle class whites, but only by 3 points among college-educated (a four year degree or more) middle class whites. Moreover, between 2000 and 2004, Bush’s margin among non-college-educated middle class whites increased by 15 points, while his margin among college-educated middle class whites increased by just 7 points.
Lest one think that the differences between college-educated and non-college-educated middle class whites in 2004 were all driven by postgraduate middle class whites, those middle class whites with a four year degree only were still markedly less pro-Bush (an 18 point smaller margin) than the non-college-educated.
Conclusion: yes, income matters–but so does education.
The final basic finding of the report is:

The entrance of married women into the middle class led to a dramatic increase in Republican support.

This is awkwardly phrased, making it sound like there’s some sort of social trend with married women “entering” the middle class and then voting Republican. What they’re really saying here–what their data show–is that married women, particularly white married women, with moderate to high incomes voted Republican in 2004, while unmarried women with those incomes still leaned Democratic (though less so, the higher the income level).
But we knew that.
Anyway, I don’t want these criticisms to lead people away from the report. On the contrary, I want people to grapple with it. The authors of the report and Third Way as an organization are to be commended for making an empirically-based case for their political views, instead of simply asserting that their views are correct. We could use more, not less, of this kind of serious data analysis as the debate in and around the Democratic party continues.
And I certainly don’t disagree with the thrust of the some of the final remarks in the report:

Democrats talk and legislate a great deal about issues that they believe are of concern to the middle class, such as better schools, affordable health care, and job security. This has not translated into middle class votes. Assuming these issues are truly important to middle class voters (and there is no reason to believe they are not), it could be that Democrats have a set of flawed messages that do not reach the middle class. Or, the middle class may simply believe that their schools will not be better, their health care will not be more affordable, and their jobs will not be more secure should Democrats run the Congress and control the White House.

Either way, the so-called party of the middle class has some serious work to do. Hats off to authors of this report for calling our attention to this challenge.

How Can the Democrats Become the Party of Change? (Continued)

4. The new Democracy Corps/Campaign for America’s Future poll makes the strongest case of all the recent polls on the public appetite for change (see yesterday’s post for discussion of the Gallup, Quinnipiac and CBS News polls). In this poll, right direction/wrong track is at 37/55 and, by 55-41, voters say they want the country to “go in a significantly different direction”, rather than continuing in Bush’s direction. The latter sentiment is even more lopsided among independents (66 percent different direction/26 percent Bush’s direction), moderates (66/30) and white mainline Protestants (62/35). And even white rural voters favor a new direction by 49-46.
The figure on white mainline Protestants is worth paying particular attention to. In the 2004 election, according to the 2004 National Survey on Religion and Politics (NSRP), white mainline Protestants moved strongly toward the Democrats, increasing their support of the Democratic presidential candidate by 10 points over 2000. That change brought this group to an even split of their vote between Kerry and Bush, while four years before they had given 60 percent of their two-party to Bush. Further movement in the Democrats’ direction on the part of white mainline Protestants would clearly endander the GOP’s tenuous electoral majority.
On Iraq, the poll finds 57 percent of voters saying the war was not worth the cost in lives and dollars (including 52 percent who strongly endorse that sentiment) abd just 38 percent saying the war was worth those costs. On the economy, by 62-36, voters say the economy is performing poorly for the middle class, rather than doing well. And on Social Security, voters reject Bush’s Social Security plan whether it is simply alluded to (56-34) or explained, including his progressive indexing proposal (58-36).
In addition, by 57-33, voters believe Congress has the wrong priorities and “isn’t working on the issues that matter to me” and, by 55-40, they endorse the idea that Democrats should make sure Bush and the Republicans don’t go too far in pushing their agenda, rather than work in a bipartisan fashion on Bush’s legislative priorities. Voters also favor Democrats over Republicans in next year’s Congressional election by 5 points (48-43), which includes leads of 23 points among independents, 29 points among moderates, 19 points among white mainline Protestants and 9 points in the battleground states.
So: an appetite for change and a clear opening for the Democrats. The problem, as the DCorps report notes, is that voters still cannot bring themselves to be very enthusiastic about the Democrats–their favorability and thermometer ratings differ little from Republicans’ at this point. That’s because, while voters want real and substantial change, they still don’t see the Democrats as being the party of such change.
That’s the problem Democrats need to solve and the sooner the better. I believe the way to tackle the problem, as I argued in “Myths of Democratic Renewal“, is to identify the Democrats with good new ideas that change the way voters look at Democrats.
Let me illustrate this point by flagging another result from the DCorps poll: that the two items of a Democratic agenda that made the most voters say they would be more likely to vote for a Democratic candidate were both items in the education area (early childhood investment and affordable college). Yet Democrats currently have little to say in this area and didn’t appear to benefit much from education issues in the 2004 campaign. What gives?
Center for American Progress fellow Robert Gordon, in an important cover story, “Class Struggle: What Democrats Need to Say About Education“, in this week’s New Republic, makes a convincing case that Democrats have not benefitted more from education issues because they have had little new and exciting to say to voters about these issues. Instead, they have repeated the same old tired refrain (“more money!”), which has just reinforced voter stereotypes about Democrats and certainly hasn’t made make them look like the party of reform and change.
Here are some excerpts from Gordon’s article where he makes his case, but I urge you to read the entire article:

In the only exchange on education during the 2004 presidential debates, John Kerry made one argument: “The president who talks about No Child Left Behind refused to fully fund [it] by 28 billion dollars … he didn’t put in what he promised, and that makes a difference in the lives of our children.” George W. Bush responded acidly: “Only a liberal senator from Massachusetts would say that a 49 percent increase in funding for education was not enough. We’ve increased funds. But, more importantly, we’ve reformed the system.”
That sums up the education debate in last year’s campaign. Bush championed reform and resources. Although Bob Dole had once wanted to shut down the Department of Education, in his first term, Bush supported standards-based accountability through the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). And, though he fell short of his promises on money, Bush did approve more than $30 billion in new K-12 education funding.
While Bush and the Republicans moved to the middle, Kerry and the Democrats retreated from it….The party’s top three education demands were money, money, and money. “You cannot promise to leave no child behind and then leave the money behind,” Kerry often said.
While Democrats reinforced the old idea that they just want to spend, Bush appealed to a public that wants both accountability and funding….
These are vivid memories for me. I was one of Kerry’s education advisers during the general election. I previously worked for–and have since advised–Edwards. The views expressed here are my own, but I bear plenty of responsibility for the developments described. Yet the attitudes of the candidates reflected the attitudes of the party. Top congressional Democrats today say nothing different.
It’s stunning to see Democrats lose their edge on education. That’s because, on education, Democrats don’t need to explain why the United States needs vigorous government; Americans already want effective public schools. Through education, Democrats reach for their own deepest aspiration: a country where birth doesn’t dictate destiny. Nothing offends Democratic ideals more than the fact that a typical poor or African American twelfth-grader reads at the same level as a typical middle-class or white eighth-grader. Nothing is a greater threat to middle-class prosperity than mediocre schools. If Democrats cannot speak powerfully to an issue that speaks so powerfully to them, they cannot expect to prevail on tougher ideological terrain.
To get the politics right, progressives need to act on a policy principle that Americans understand: Money ain’t everything….

Gordon illustrates the approach progressives need to use by referring to the issue of teacher quality–an issue which consistently tops the public’s list of concerns about the public schools:

The tougher challenge for progressives is not to fix NCLB, but to stop talking about it all the time–and instead offer an educational vision of their own. Bush isn’t vulnerable for supporting standards; he is vulnerable for believing standards are enough. Tests measure progress but don’t teach children.
Progressives should tackle a challenge all but ignored by Bush: strengthening the quality of teachers. As the Education Trust notes, good teachers are the single most important factor in good schools–affecting student achievement more than race, poverty, or parental education. Three years of good teachers can lift students’ scores by 50 percentile points compared with three years of lousy teachers, according to researcher William Sanders. But, as talented women have moved on to other professions, teacher quality has declined. Education majors score below national averages on standardized tests. Most schools do little to draw or keep more talented teachers: Onerous hiring procedures discourage able candidates, while the lockstep pay scale rewards seniority and accumulated degrees, not success. Schools offer $80,000 salaries to middle-aged and mediocre gym teachers while losing bright young chemistry teachers who make only $40,000. Today, a middling performer can get a routine grant of tenure after three years, then become virtually impossible to remove for three decades. One North Carolina study showed that school superintendents would have liked to remove about one in 25 tenured teachers per year, but actually removed fewer than one in 600. Teacher quality is lowest in the poorest schools, where good teachers are needed most. Students at high-poverty schools are nearly twice as likely to be taught by teachers who lack even a minor in the relevant subject.
Strengthening teaching requires changes to the pay system and school culture that abet mediocrity. Standing alone, the usual liberal solution–across-the-board pay hikes–perpetuates the maldistribution of good teachers and reinforces the irrelevance of achievement. High-poverty schools need to attract more teachers with bonuses, and all schools need to attract better teachers with the promise of higher earnings for better results. Teachers reasonably worry about arbitrary merit bonuses, but performance pay need not be arbitrary. Sanders and others are developing methods to measure each teacher’s contribution, accounting for students’ starting points and their expected progress. Together with peer and principal reviews, these methods promise at least as rich a basis for evaluation as those available in other professions where performance pay is the norm.
While schools need better pay to attract good teachers, they also need better systems to remove bad ones. Today dismissal can take years, cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, and require proof of outrageous conduct. That is unfair to students and good teachers who want peers who work as hard as they do. Faculty deserve protection against dismissals based on politics or personal animus, but schools should extend the periods needed to get tenure and streamline procedures so dismissals are fair but fast. Finally, talented young people seeking to enter teaching should not be required to get education degrees with no proven link to classroom performance.
Although still in their infancy, reforms along these lines have shown promise. When Chattanooga’s lowest-performing schools offered teachers $5,000 bonuses, free graduate-school tuition, and mortgage assistance, vacancies dropped by 90 percent. The Milken Family Foundation’s Teacher Advancement Program offers bonuses up to $5,000 based on a combination of evaluations and test scores. Most schools in the program are outperforming similar schools outside it. According to a recent evaluation, Teach for America’s talented novices, lacking traditional training, outperform typical teachers in math instruction and equal them in reading.
A sound national plan would put big money on the table for school districts that adopt real reforms in pay, tenure, and licensing for teachers. To see what works best, schools should be encouraged to try different–and ambitious–approaches. With federal help, a city might offer a promising new math teacher in a poor school district $60,000 instead of $40,000; after excelling in the classroom for two years, that teacher might earn $80,000. Raises averaging $20,000 for one-third of the teachers at 10 percent of schools would cost $2 billion annually in a system spending over $400 billion, but could show the way to transform teaching.
Progressive leaders should couple these reforms with a sustained call for Americans to teach in troubled schools. Twelve percent of Yale seniors applied to Teach for America this year. How many more talented Americans, young and old, would teach if their country called?
….Al Gore and John Kerry both offered agendas along these lines for teacher quality. But, after giving speeches and garnering media accolades, both candidates barely mentioned their ideas again. Nor have congressional Democrats stepped up to promote them.

That shameful reticence has to stop. Americans will only come to regard the Democrats as the party of change if they sound like they’re willing to shake up the system, instead of issuing the same old call for more money. That means, while voters are ready for change, Democrats are going to have to do some changing of their own to capture that voter sentiment. We shall see if they’re up to it.

How Can the Democrats Become the Party of Change?

That’s question number one for the Democrats to answer, because the public is ready–indeed, eager–for change. Consider these key results from the latest round of public polls:
1. The latest Gallup poll finds Bush’s overall approval rating at 46 percent and his approval ratings on the economy, Iraq and Social Security at 40, 40 and 33, respectively, all three of which are the worst he has ever received in those areas. Bush also receives his poorest evaluation ever on whether he has “the personality and leadership qualities a president should have”, one of his traditional strong suits: right now, only a narrow majority (52 percent) agrees and 45 percent disagree. And on whether “you agree or disagree with George W. Bush on the issues that matter most to you”, 57 percent of the public says they disagree and just 40 percent says they agree (another worst ever). Finally, the public believes, by 47-36, that the country would be better off if the Democrats, not the Republicans, controlled Congress.
2. The latest Quinnipiac University poll has Bush’s overall approval rating at 44 percent (39 percent among independents), his lowest ever in this poll. And, as Bush seeks to move the judiciary to the right, the poll finds 55 percent saying abortion should be legal in all or most cases and a very strong 63-33 majority expressing support for the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision establishing a woman’s right to an abortion.
3. The latest CBS News poll has Bush’s overall approval rating at 46 percent (40 percent among independents) and his approval rating on foreign policy at 40 percent (31/independents), on the economy at 38 percent (32/independents), on Iraq at 38 percent (29/independents) and on Social Security at 26 percent (24/independents). Right direction/wrong track is at 34/60 and, by 61-34, the public says Bush does not share the same priorities for the country that they have. They are even more skeptical of Congress, believing, by 68-20, that their priorities for the country are different from those of Congress.
More on “How Can the Democrats Become the Party of Change?” Tomorrow….