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Slick Marketing and Packaging

Daniel Larison offers the following commentary on this NPR opinion poll:

Put simply: when voters are considering the policy substance offered by the competing parties, the Republican position scarcely wins a majority of its own partisans and loses badly with everyone else. (Concerning Iraq - ed. note) (snip)

More striking, and also of interest to readers of TAC, is the difference among Republican respondents to positions on trade. When told that it was the Republican “free trade” position, Republicans agreed with it 63-33. Without partisan cues, Republicans agreed with a less “free trade”-oriented Democratic statement that included a call to renegotiate NAFTA 54-43. That’s a forty-one point swing that apparently hinges entirely on partisanship. All that cognitive dissonance has to give these people a headache. (snip) The Republicans have a policy problem.

So, when not conditioned to respond ritualistically to the invocation of GOP shibboleths, Republican respondents actually opposed the established GOP orthodoxy on trade, and approached an even split on the signature GOP policy of eternal war fighting them over there so that we don't have to fight them here. While Ross Douthat suggests, facetiously, that the GOP might have to elect a new American people in order to deal with this policy crisis, my take isn't quite so tongue-in-cheek. I think that these figures, if replicated, would set in sociological and political context the perverse opposition of GOP elites to the base on the matter of immigration, not to mention the slapping-down administered to the base this winter, when Huckabee captured the affections of the largest GOP contingent: they really might prefer to elect a new people, though in the meantime they will attempt to bamboozle their voters with slick marketing and packaging, aka. agitprop, to induce them to vote against their own interests. The GOP deserves an electoral bloodbath, just as the Democrats deserved one in the Seventies. And they may well get it. Or not. Perhaps the womb of illusion is preferable, for their average voters, to the coldness and harsh light of reality, which is that they have been played for suckers, in more ways than one.

Comments (12)

The heartland's revulsion towards globalization and it's instruments of military intervention, free trade and open borders will only grow in the coming years. So too, the economic, social and cultural chasm separating "Main Street" from the ruling class. Add to this mix, the de-humanizing forces preparing the way for human-animal hybrids, and you have all the makings for either, the emergence of a nightmarish dystopia, or the staging of the greatest counter-revolution in human history. As a Christian father, I'm counting on the latter.

Anyone suffering from ennui now, has likely expired.

Also fascinating is the Democrat's response to their own party: exactly the opposite of the Pubs (though with smaller percentage swings).

Give Dems a policy they like, tell them its a Democratic policy, and they like it *less.*

Now, who's got the branding problem?

I worked the numbers into a little table here:


What this really means is that the Republicans are still riding Reagan's coattails. I almost added Newt Gingrich's name there, but he has forsaken the task of engaging and educating the base, and has instead turned to coopting the liberal agenda.

Sorry, this story does not cut it at all - not without seeing the actual "questions" asked, and the order they were asked in. You see, pollsters have a well-recognized art of devising a sequence of questions that leads the responder to a particular answer in context that they would NEVER agree to without that context. If I wanted to, I could devise questions that "showed" 80% of Dems were in favor of the war in Iraq.

Please be a little more cautious here, and find out a LOT more than is in the quick blurb from NPR.

Furthermore, there are similar dissonances with all major parties. For example, a wide majority of Dems are in favor of a Roe & Doe style Supreme Court, but a similar wide majority are against total freedom of 3rd trimester abortions for pure convenience. Duh!

Could someone do me a favor and define "globalization?" In some contexts it seems to refer simply to the increasing quickness with which goods, services, travel, and communications move throughout the world - a mere phenomenon. In other contexts it seems to refer to a political re-organizations of the national orders (kind of what happened to the European nations but across the world) wherein nations cede elements of their sovereignty to a larger entity - something the liberals alone seem to favor strongly. In other contexts it seems to be the policy of permitting, or even favoring, conditions amenable to multi-nationals, movement of labor from high-cost, high-quality towards low-cost, low-quality environments, etc., something which Republicans alone seem to favor strongly.

Does it not seem unreasonable to use one single word to refer to each of these as if they all meant the same thing? Or to use the word meaning one of these without explaining which one?

The linked evil PDF does explain, albeit briefly, both the methodology and the policy statements presented to the participants. There is no cunning here.

The linked evil PDF does explain, albeit briefly, both the methodology and the policy statements presented to the participants. There is no cunning here.

First, I have difficulty believing that everything given is the entire and whole "methodology." Take for example the first chart, "national mood trend." They don't state the actual question asked, nor state possible answers, nor specify whether any context was provided.

Secondly, the "positions" identified with Republican and Democrat parties are hardly valid and hardly present clear differences. Since NAFTA was signed by a Dem President, why is opposition to it a Dem cause? According to the questions, both parties supposedly favor middle class tax relief, but the actual effect of the specific proposals (and the likelihood of getting those enacted) are not identical, yet the details were not given in the question. Supposedly both parties want fair trade with markets open to the US worker - why is the "open to US worker" only stated for the Dem position and not the Republican position? Why does the Dem position on Iraq say "reduce our troops in a responsible way" when that has nothing to do with the actual Democratic position?

The simple fact is that the way these were worded has VERY LITTLE to do with the actual policies intended to be enacted by the specific parties - or some elements within those parties, which is not the same thing at all. In addition, the rhetorical general descriptions used by all parties ("we'll reduce taxes") is essentially identical on a host of issues, so it is irrational to say the questions identify how the rhetoric of each party is getting across.

This poll is a total joke.

"Since NAFTA was signed by a Dem President, why is opposition to it a Dem cause?"

Here's the NAFTA vote in the House;
And the Senate;

However, if your point is that our bi-partisan elites are overwhelmingly free-trade, despite the opposition of most Americans, your point is well-taken.

I make it out that in the Senate the Dems were almost half for and half against. Then the Dem Pres signed it. He had a sufficient number in each house to beat a veto over-ride, so he apparently wanted the bill. I fail to see how opposition to NAFTA can be a quintessentially Dem cause. Any opposition in specific politicians statements is more likely to be a simple matter of political calculation - i.e. empty rhetoric.

I thought most Americans were for FAIR trade. You have to specify how NAFTA is contrary to fair trade to help me see how it is that most Americans oppose it. Most Americans oppose "free" trade only when "free" trade is understood to mean something other than fair trade, which happens when we equivocate on the meanings.

Trenchant observation; most Americans are for free trade that is fair, while almost identical numbers of voters support FAIR trade that is free.

On an unrelated note, and it could be the Merlot, but I think you either, mis-spelled your name, or I've not kept pace with the New English program in our skools.

I worry about these predictions of gloom (though these aren't as bad as some others which are predicting nothing less than "the end of conservatism") because it seems that the last two years of any two-term president is the high-water mark of gloom and despair over his legacy (Think Clinton's impeachment, Reagan's Iran-Contra, Nixon's Watergate, etc.) This is not to say that these scandals aren't real, but they are easy to overreact to. In some sense the scandals seem like a built-in part of the system- a natural response of Americans who worry about any one leader or party getting too powerful. I wouldn't swear by this idea, but it might help to balance out some of the gloom directed at a political party at the end of its two-term president's tenure.

In my estimation, while the skeptik is assuredly correct that polling methodologies vary, and that results can be skewed thereby, his misgivings are exaggerated in this case. The actual methodology of the poll appears to have been quite simple: pose a question or policy statement to registered voters of each party with and without partisan identifiers. Presumably, the way to do this would be to ask respondents whether they agree or disagree with a given position without the identifiers first, returning to the position later with the identifiers.

As regards the questions and policy positions themselves, they are fair representations of both the rhetoric of the parties and common public perceptions of said rhetoric. Republican officials, by and large, think that fair trade misses the entire point of free trade accords, while Democrats pay at least lip service to the idea that trading partners ought to enact some labour and environmental protections, and that trade ought to be about more than simple arbitrage. Hence, Republicans, the convoluted text of NAFTA notwithstanding, tend to regard the accord as an unmitigated triumph, while Democrats* incline toward the position that certain provisions ought to be renegotiated. Again, the poll, like all polls, concerns rhetoric and perceptions, which are always refractions of political reality: to the extent that Republican positions may be generalized thusly, do you agree or disagree? and etc. We cannot demand more of polling than the nature of practice permits, and with these limitations in mind, the results are nonetheless suggestive. Virtually everyone else commenting on the poll and its implications regards it similarly.

* - Yes, NAFTA was championed and signed by a Democratic president; Bill Clinton represented the Democratic Leadership Council wing of the party, which adopted better than three-quarters of the economic dogmas of the right, the principal differences between them concerning marginal tax rates. The DLC has since fallen from grace in the Democratic party, and on the left more generally. That NAFTA was railroaded by a Democratic executive is notable chiefly for its historical interest.

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