Progressives throughout the country watch as the Bush administration continues a downward spiral in the polls. Currently, the President’s approval rating is hovering around the 40% range with last weeks CBS News Poll indicating an all time low of 34%. Even the Red states are negative with an average approval rating of only 42%.
And then there is Idaho. With an approval rating of 55%, Idaho is one of only three states where a majority approve of how Bush is running the country. What is most depressing can be seen in the chart below. Oblivious to the debacle in Iraq, the blunders after Katrina, the Abu Grav torture scandal, the Plame/Libby/Chaney/Rove scandal, the Port scandal, the wiretapping scandal, etc., etc., etc., Bush’s approval rating has dropped only 1% since May of 2005. The loyal Idaho Bushites continue to smile approvingly like good little political Stepford wives.
As someone who tends to be a “glass is half empty,” kind of a guy anyway, this is a pretty depressing state of affairs. I was so depressed last might that I couldn’t sleep. The “never fail” strategy to lift my spirits ( Old Bushmills and my Sam Cooke and the Soul Stirrers play list on “repeat all.” ) didn’t even work.
This morning I decided to give a call to my old friend John. John is one of those guys who is always sees the glass as half full, always able to see the best of any situation. John is also a retired public employee and a life-long Democrat. If nothing else, he can put Idaho politics into historical perspective. He remembers those halycon days when Idaho elected Democratic politicians like Frank Church and Cecil Andress.
John response to Bush’s approval rating in Idaho was, “What in the world would you expect? Read Thomas Frank’s book, What’s the Matter with Kansas? Substitute Idaho for Kansas and you know why all of the scandals that concern you aren’t making a dent in the attitude of the good citizens of Idaho. It’s fear, fear of social issues like gay marriage and abortion, fear of losing the small town values they associate with living in Idaho and, of course, fear of terrorism, that keeps them clinging to Bush. Given all that, it is remarkable that he has a very, very slim majority of support. He has three more years to erode that 5% he is holding on to.”
John’s real message, however, was a simple one. There is no use being depressed over something you have no control over. Progressives in Idaho need to focus on November. Democrats have a real chance to regain control of Congress and, yes, the Democratic Party will have a slate of candidates with a legitimate chance of winning. The same is true for the Governorship. Brady has established name recognition and grassroots support while Otter is a divisive candidate who could easily alienate those Republicans who are suspicious of his extreme Libertarian positions on issues.
John is right. Bush will either self-distruct or he won’t. In the meantime (and the times are likely to remain quite mean), progressives in Idaho have an opportunity to make meaningful change on the local level. That is nothing to be depressed about!