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May 30, 2006


You can't win back lost trust.

In a recent speech, Rove argued that Bush's policies of tax cuts and trade agreements had pulled the nation out of recession, created millions of jobs, boosted productivity and increased disposable income. That record can help lead Republicans to victory in November, Rove said in the May 15 speech at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington.

Political experts say it may be a tough sell: Voters don't feel optimistic, polls show, and growth rates are expected to slow as the housing market cools and gasoline prices remain near all-time highs.

``The administration needs to change the electorate's overall psychology,'' says Stuart Rothenberg, who publishes a nonpartisan Washington political report. ``It would be a huge asset for the Republican Party if people could start to focus on the economy, appreciate it and see it as something that has worked, but I see no evidence that that's going to happen.''

Seventy percent of 1,002 respondents in a May 8-11 Gallup poll said the economy was in fair to poor condition, up from 63 percent in an April poll

Certainly Bush lost trust over Iraq and Katrina and it's not coming back. The fundamental problem on the domestic front is growing inequality and reduced upward mobility. There is nothing much that anyone (like the new Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson) can do by way of cheerleading until those factors begin to be addressed. They can talk aggregate numbers and averages forever, but as long as the economy as experienced by 95% of the people is anxiety-producing or worse, nothing positive will happen. People will just continue to tune out.

People need to see a path of action, a way for things to be different. this is the challenge for the Dems--to convince people that changing parties can change their circumstances, that it means that the big issues--health care, energy, sustainability, deficits, will at least begin to be addressed.

Activists are already climbing aboard the train in large numbers, which is bound to have an effect in local races, but unless and until Dem leaders show some vision, ordinary people will remain skeptical.

I think if the economy decisively turned up, and Iraq stabilized without any big new bad headlines, Bush could come back to the low-or maybe mid 40s.

But this won't happen, I'd bet the farm on it. We've been in a smokescreen economy for a decade, now.

What could give the Democrats a victory would be a non-turnout by Republican voters angry about immigration, Iraq and high gas prices. The Republican base will never switch gears and vote Democratic since they equate the Democrats with blacks, feminists, gays, communists, intellectuals, city-dwellers, etc. So they just won't vote, period. Rove will come out with his usual character smears and gay-bashing in the few weeks before the election. But will it work this time around? Republican voters may say, "been there--done that" and stay home.

Dem, I'm not sure we'll ever hear predictions of a good-guy landslide prior to Election Day -- the press is congenitally disposed to think of the Democratic party as a bunch of losers who'll blow the best possible circumstances. It'll take the 2x4 of actual dramatic election results to really sway them. (As opposed to 1994, when a GOP storm was touted from about April on)

Marysz, I think the GOP trotting out gay marriage et al. this November will be the equivalent of the Dems warning about Social Security in '94 -- it had worked for them so often before, they couldn't believe it'd fail, but it was washed away in the tide.

Nice how the markets welcomed the new Treasury Secretary with a 180 point drop. I'm not sure exactly how soon economic bad times will arrive (I mean on-paper bad times, not the experientially-bad we have already), but it's a fairly safe bet Paulson will be at the helm.

Somewhere in the last few years we crossed a line at which the conventional measures of a "good" economy no longer fit people's perceptions of their own economic lives. Even as recently as the Clinton years, this wasn't the case - people believed the good news in the official numbers, because they felt that things were at least inching up for them, too.

Now the class-stratification chickens have come home to roost for Bush and the GOP. By the traditional measures - unemployment, job growth, etc. - the economy is not bad. But the squeeze on middle income people is now so pervasive that the official cheer gets tuned out.

two words.

Gasoline prices.

Every time a voter shells out $50 to fill their gas tank, they question what is going on with this administration. $50 and "a full tank of gas" used to mean completely different things, and nobody is seeing the kind of raises that would make up for the fact that they are paying at least a couple of bucks more each day simply to get to work and back.

Dems have to make this about Bush, and focus on gas prices, if they want to take either House of Congress.

"Now the class-stratification chickens have come home to roost for Bush and the GOP. By the traditional measures - unemployment, job growth, etc. - the economy is not bad. But the squeeze on middle income people is now so pervasive that the official cheer gets tuned out."

That's encouraging to hear, because the GOP and its fundie base have also been busy trying to convince people that "government" can't "solve" economic problems - but government can, by golly, enforce Christian morality. It turns the entire concept of post-Enlightenment social philosophy, and the Founders' concepts of democracy, on their heads altogether. And I worried that people outside the fundie base were actually listening to that crap.

I hope that people do make the connection between their paltry "tax relief" (assuming they had any in the first place) and the fact that they're paying more for gas, paying more for health insurance, paying more to educate their kids - even as their salaries aren't keeping pace with the increased costs, their job security is non-existant, and upward mobility is a mirage.

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