U.S. political landscape tilts to Democrats; A new poll shows that more Americans are rejecting both the Republican Party and many of its broad conservative ideals. PUBLIC OPINION
Source: The Miami Herald 03/23/2007 WASHINGTON
President Bush's dream of leaving an enduring Republican majority as his political legacy is slipping from his grasp.
A new poll released Thursday confirms that the country's underlying political landscape has turned sharply against Bush's party and toward the Democrats on bellwether issues such as the use of military force, religion, affirmative action and homosexuality.
''It's going in the other direction,'' said Andrew Kohut, the director of the Pew Research Center, which released the survey.
It's not going toward a Democratic majority. But there's no more progress toward a Republican majority.''
''But Democrats shouldn't start popping the champagne yet,'' said Steve Schier, a political scientist at Minnesota's Carleton College. ``This group . . . is still very much up for grabs.''
The idea of a durable political majority -- like the one the Republicans enjoyed for decades after the Civil War or that Franklin D. Roosevelt built for the Democrats in the 1930s and '40s -- might be a quaint notion in an era in which a third of the voters refuse to align with either major party for more than one election.
But Bush and his political advisor, Karl Rove, thought they had found the keys to securing what began as the so-called Reagan Revolution and seemed to gain strength with the Republican takeover of Congress in 1994.
They called it ''compassionate conservatism,'' a blend of appeals to religious and economic conservatives coupled with a pitch to moderate, suburban independents for education revisions, tax cuts, Medicare expansion.
A solid Republican majority seemed within reach, especially after the country rallied behind Bush after the 2001 terrorist attacks. Bush's Republicans defied history by gaining seats in the 2002 midterm congressional elections, which usually tilt against the president's party.
That year, the Republicans moved into a tie with the Democrats in terms of voters' self-proclaimed party identification, with 43 percent picking each party.
Now that's all gone.
Today, 50 percent of Americans call themselves Democrats or lean that way, while 35 percent favor the Republican Party.
''Over the past five years, the political landscape of the nation has shifted from one of partisan parity to a sizable Democratic advantage,'' the Pew analysis said. ``But the change reflects Republican losses more than Democratic gains.''
''That's due to dissatisfaction with the White House,'' Kohut added in an interview.
That dissatisfaction has grown as Americans have turned against the war in Iraq.
At the same time, the country is becoming more amenable to the Democratic view of such divisive issues as God, war and welfare, the Pew survey found:
The ranks of those who completely agree that prayer is an important part of their daily lives dropped from 55 percent in 1999 to 45 percent.
Those who think military strength is the best way to preserve peace dropped from 62 percent in 2002 to 49 percent.More people support affirmative action, up from 58 percent in 1995 to 70 percent today. The percentage of Americans who think the government should help needy people even if it increases the national debt rose from 41 percent in 1994 to 54 percent today.
Commentary: Promising changes for the Democratic Party. This report however lacks data on what parts of the country these shifts are occuring. Larger numbers nationally do not equate to a certainity of control of Congress or the White House.