Archive for the ‘Polls’ Category

A Democrat’s Lincoln Dilemma

Senator Carl Levin, D-Mi, has an OpEd up in the Washington Post describing the Democratic dilemma with the current war funding. He compares his problem with the similar situation that Abraham Lincoln, paragon of Republican presidents, had while in Congress and while America was at war with Mexico,

In his only term in Congress, Abraham Lincoln was an ardent opponent of the Mexican War. He introduced a series of resolutions that challenged President James Polk to show the “spot” of American soil on which Mexicans had spilled American blood, and he voted for an amendment stating that the war was “unnecessarily and unconstitutionally begun by the President.”

But when the question of funding for the troops fighting that war came, Lincoln voted their supplies without hesitation.

Levin goes on to again lay the ground work for another round of timetable discussions.

By setting a policy that begins with putting into law a timetable for starting a troop reduction, rather than trying to stop funding, we offer the best chance for stabilizing a country that we invaded while also sending the message to our troops that, even though we oppose the president’s policy, we are united behind them.

Support for our approach has grown steadily. In June 2006, our measure received 39 votes. In March, it received 48 votes. In April, it received 51 votes, including those of two Republican senators. By contrast, only 29 senators so far — none of them Republican — have voted for a funding cutoff. That’s a long way from the 60 votes needed to end a filibuster or the 67 needed to override a veto.

The OpEd is the first shot in the latest round of political skirmishes over the war and funding.

It should be noted, that the last Congressional loss, strong rhetoric followed by an equally weak withdrawal, caused a continuing drop in public support for Congress. It is now, according to Charles Franklin at Political Arithmetik, lower than Bush when aggregated across every major poll; 27.9% to 29.9%.

Political Arithmetik - Congressional Approval 11/6/2007

Political Arithmetik - Presidential Approval 19/6/2007

I think the Democrats are taking the wrong tact here. I would argue Congress must actively push the media to poll the American people on the soundbite “Does the American people want us to fund the war without a timetable?” That should be the talking point, nothing else.

If the answer comes up overwhelmingly no, the strategy becomes far simpler. Present Bush with a bill including a timetable with the clear caveat that that is the last legislation. There would be no proposal to deny funding, the house leadership simply will not schedule any further legislation for funding the war. The money will dry up without a vote and the Democrats can point to Bush as the person responsible.

If the answer to the polling comes up approving unconstrained funding, then a completely different tactic is necessary. The Democrats need to rethink their basic positioning. If the American public is willing to support funding for an unlimited, unending war, the Democrats can then push the president, not to withdraw but to win. Make success the marker and not the funding. Push the Republican party to show why their policies aren’t working and why the American public should keep funding a losing battle.

If the answer is a weak no, the Democrats are on course, sailing without a real course through uncharted waters, without a destination or timetable. Bush won’t sign it, the Democrats don’t need to support it. Just give Bush the funding after a token fight for another 3 months and wait until Christmas.

I am reminded of the book March of Folly by Barbara Tuchman. Published in 1984, it highlights how governments manage to blunder into making absolutely stupid mistakes despite overwhelmingly negative signs. Tuchman uses as examples Troy, the Renaissance Popes, the British government during the American Revolution and America’s own first true folly: Vietnam. It is a book all Democratic aides should be reading. In many ways, all four tales echo today’s Washington.

In Tuchman’s account, in every case, the majority of the public, the experts and even a large number of politicians knew the path lead to ruin. They followed it anyway; despite the Lincoln dilemmas. It is time to stop the folly.

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Creationist Poll Dancing

Monday’s Gallup poll has gotten some attention lately.

PZ Myers and Hemant Mehta, the Friendly Atheist and author of I Sold My Soul on eBay, both weighted in on the issue. People seem very surprised at the fact that a majority of Republicans support the creationist viewpoint. Actually this was to be expected and any other result would have been the earth-shattering bloggable result.

The first thing I would point out is that the majority of Americans do believe in evolution, even if the graphs being tossed about on Pharyngula and FA don’t seem to show it.

This is my graph of the Gallup data reformatted to highlight the belief in evolution over time.

gallup-polls-small.gif

Note: “Present Form” corresponds to the Gallup answer “God created man in present form.“ These numbers are roughly equivalent to the answers found when you look at the belief in the literal six-day creation story (35% in 2006 according to a Pew Research poll) and other indicators of fundamentalist religious tendencies.

There are a couple of comments you can make here. First, it is getting better. Not quickly, but it is getting better. If you consider that a belief in God will almost require dropping into either the creationist camp or into some kind of theistic evolutionary theory, the results aren’t too surprising. Also, depending on how the questions are phrased, the relative percentages within the evolution camp can shift significantly.

Perhaps far more surprising is the following result from the Gallup poll.

It might seem contradictory to believe that humans were created in their present form at one time within the past 10,000 years and at the same time believe that humans developed over millions of years from less advanced forms of life. But, based on an analysis of the two side-by-side questions asked this month about evolution and creationism, it appears that a substantial number of Americans hold these conflicting views.
[…]

  • 24% of Americans believe that both the theory of evolution and the theory of creationism are probably or definitely true
  • 41% believe that creationism is true, and that evolution is false
  • 28% believe that evolution is true, but that creationism is false
  • 3% either believe that both are false or have no opinion about at least one of the theories [my emphasis]

The means that almost a quarter of the American population have probably never taken any time to actually try to match up religion and science. Both are “true,” each in it’s own frame. You could probably pick 1 of 4 people and by deep discussion and questioning achieve nothing but irritation. The ideas would not compute. They don’t want to think about it. One could argue that they aren’t in their right minds. Which brings me to the political aspect of the poll.

According to Gallup, only 30% of Republicans believe in evolution with 68% towing the Creationist line. These numbers are almost reversed in Democratic (61%/37%) and Independent (57%/40%) camps. In the same poll, Gallup found Americans evenly split between Republicans and Democrats (31% each) and 36% mostly democratic leaning Independents.

Does this mean that being conservative means you are religious? One blogger thinks so.

People aren’t conservative because they believe in unrestricted gun ownership, and they aren’t liberal because they believe in the right of a woman to make choices about tissues in her own body. No, if this is right, people choose their beliefs because of their political temperament and not the other way around. ‘Liberal’ and ‘Conservative’ need to be seen as clusters of personality traits and stable overall worldviews, and not political creeds consisting of enumerable doctrines.

While this might be true, the skewed data might also be the result of 30 years of effort the fundamentalist religious right has put into taking over the Republican party. You might be religious and conservative. There was a time when you might also have been a Democrat. The Republican party has become so conservative because it has gotten such an influx from the Religious right.

Since the days of the Moral Majority, fundamentalist religious leaders have insistently attempted to get their followers to move into the Republican party. Not because they agree with all issues; Jesus “Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called sons of God (Mat 5:9)” Christ might not have voted red in the last election. No they are Republican because that is the party the church is supporting

Jerry Fallwell said back in the 1980’s, “get them saved, get them Baptized, and get them registered.” That is why the difference between the two parties is so dramatic. The hard core believers who make up about 36% of the Republicans consider themselves a members of the Religious right as opposed to 16% in the Democratic party and 7% of Independents (Pew)

Nothing has changed, no real news here. The Republican party is made up of conservative, religious, church goers. Perhaps more surprising is that only 3 Republican candidates didn’t agree with the base. After this poll, that might change.

Let the the political poll dancing begin.