Bush is a Divider, not a Uniter

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Related Memes: Bush is Phony

posted by DFLer May 30, 2004:



Conventional wisdom among Progressives and Democrats, resisted by Republicans and the mainstream media.


George W. Bush, campaign 2000

Talking points

  • Individual polls aren't important; the overall pattern tells the tale
  • Look at Bush Approval polls for his whole presidency
  • No matter who does them, they all show "pop and drop" pattern
  • Bush gets a "pop" as swing voters rally to him in dramatic moments
  • But that's followed by a "drop" every time.


No, you're wrong.


Campaigning for president in 2000, George W. Bush promised to be "a uniter, not a divider." He based much of this claim on his record as Governor of Texas, where he was able to work with both Republicans and Democrats in the state legislature. Following the polarized Washington politics of the 1990s, many independents and swing voters found this promise attractive.

Democrats and Progressives were openly skeptical of Bush's claim during the campaign, and have argued that as president, Bush has turned the promise on its head: he has proven to be a divider, not a uniter.

In contrast, Republicans and many in the media have sought to portray Bush as a charismatic and personally attractive leader, a regular guy who would have united the country had it not been for the attacks of September 11th.

But the evidence from public opinion polling is clear. Take a look at the charts developed by DePaul University economist Stuart Thiel, published in his "Professor Pollkatz's Pool of Polls". In particular, take a look at the chart in which he compiles every major approval poll taken since Bush took office in 2001.

You'll see a clear pattern best described as pop and drop. Public attitudes toward Bush were vague at best from the day he took office until September 11. Then he got a huge "pop," with much of the public rallying to support him. His approval numbers soared into the 80s. But afterwards, as Americans began to look carefully at what Bush actually did as president, those who had rallied to him began to "drop" away, and his approval ratings slid back down to where they had been before, in the mid 50s.

Bush repeated the pattern twice in 2003. When he launched the Iraq war in April, much of the public rallied to support him again and he got another "pop." But this time fewer ralled to his cause, and his approval scores only popped up to the 60s and 70s. And these Americans became disillusioned with Bush faster this time, and he "dropped" again, faster and farther, into the low 50s. Then, in December American troops captured Saddam Hussein, and Bush got another "pop." Again, this one was smaller, taking Bush's approval ratings only into the high 50s, and he "dropped" for months afterward, reaching the low 40s in late May of 2004.

What does this mean? Bush has been consistently unable to build public support for his presidency because he is a divider, not a uniter. Nowhere in his presidency have we seen instances of slow, steady growth of public support for Bush as he built public confidence in his leadership and his policies.

Contrast this with the presidencies of, say, Ronald Reagan or Bill Clinton, each of whom struggled in his first two years and then slowly and steadily gained public support over the next four years of his presidency. Professor Pollkatz has charts for comparison if you are a data enthusiast, but otherwise you'll have to take my word for it.

Bush has never built public support for his presidency or his policies because he has never been his intention. On the advice of Dick Cheney and Karl Rove, Bush has always advanced sharply -- even radically -- conservative policies and counted on the hope of rallying the faithful Republican base to achieve a squeaker reelection. He has never worked to unite Americans around his policies or his programs. To the contrary, with the help of the Republican-dominated Congress he has consistently worked to succeed in a polarized partisan environment.

Bush is a divider, not a uniter. His presidency is a failure.


Charts that show polling trends for President George W. Bush.


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