Friday, February 16, 2007

Digby: Polarizer In Chief

ABC News' Teddy Davis Reports: In the forthcoming issue of Texas Monthly, former Bush strategist Matthew Dowd writes that President Bush's "gut-level bond" with the American people "may be lost" and that "wholesale change" is needed in Iraq. "Sending in a small contingent of troops is likely going to be seen as not helpful," Dowd writes. "He'd be much better off with the public if he said, 'This is a mess, we made mistakes, and the only way to fix it is a wholesale change.' And that could mean either a serious increase in troop strength or withdrawal." Dowd opines that Bush's problems stem from his success in the 2002 midterm elections. ". . . when all the levers of power in Washington became Republican, creating consensus seemed to become unnecessary at the White House."
Well now, that seems like quite a mistake doesn't it? I'll bet the president wishes he hadn't done that. Who do you suppose told him he didn't need to gain consensus to govern effectively?
In late 2000, even as the result of the presidential election was still being contested in court, George W. Bush's chief pollster Matt Dowd was writing a memo for Rove that would reach a surprising conclusion. Based on a detailed examination of poll data from the previous two decades, Dowd's memo argued that the percentage of swing voters had shrunk to a tiny fraction of the electorate. Most self-described "independent" voters "are independent in name only," Dowd told me in an interview describing his memo. "Seventy-five percent of independents vote straight ticket" for one party or the other. Once such independents are reclassified as Democrats or Republicans, a key trend emerges: Between 1980 and 2000, the percentage of true swing voters fell from a very substantial 24 percent of the electorate to just 6 percent. In other words, the center was literally disappearing. Which meant that, instead of having every incentive to govern as "a uniter, not a divider," Bush now had every reason to govern via polarization.
Let the self-serving re-writing of history begin.

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