Tuesday | January 14, 2003
The Tipping Point
Today I've been mulling over the slow decay of Shrub's approval ratings, and where they might go from here.
Now I'm sure a polling junky could give you an extremely sophisticated analysis, complete with long tails, short tails, normative distributions, and more Greek letters than you can shake a kollo at. But I'm no polling junkie.
I'm also no political junkie, even if I did spend most of my free time today thinking about the slow decay of Shrub's approval ratings and where they might go from here.
I can handle it. I can also quit anytime I want to. Anytime. It's just that right now . . . I don't want to.
I know I don't know enough about polling to tell the difference between a trend and a blip. But it doesn't take too much partisan wish fulfillment to believe that something real may be happening to the Bush juggernaut.
So as we get deeper into 2003, I'll be looking for signs -- anecdotal evidence -- that the wind really has shifted. And I have a pretty good idea what I'm looking for, because I've seen it before.
In the fall of 1991, during one of the low moments in my journalistic career, I was sent to cover a Realtors(tm) convention in Las Vegas. Now I hate Vegas. I mean I loath it. It's what the whole country would look like if it were run by the Mafia. It's Bedford Falls in the part of It's a Wonderful Life where Jimmy Stewart was never born. It's Hunter S. Thompson, without the charm. And I hate it even more now that the corporations have turned it into the R-rated Disney World.
So I was in a pretty surly mood when I got there, and three days stuck in a hotel with a bunch of Realtors(tm) didn't help. All I wanted was to file my crappy copy and get the hell out of there.
But on the third day, something important happened. I was sitting (vegetating) in a room with a bunch of Realtors(tm), listening to a panel of economists drone on about how crappy the economy was. (de'ja vu all over again) Then, suddenly, I got a news flash: President Bush was in deep political trouble.
How did I know? Because one of the economists got up to talk, and when he did he started his remarks by saying "Now that President Bush has remembered where America is . . ."
Well, the Realtors(tm) started applauding, and I don't mean: tap, tap, tap, my, yes, your daughter does play the piano nicely. Oh no, this was: WHACK, WHACK, WHACK, I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it anymore!
Now Bush the Elder had just returned from one of his long, pointless trips abroad (I think it was the one where he barfed on the Japanese Prime Minister). It was also around the time he started saying really goofy things like "Message: I care." The White House knew it had a problem, but thought it was under control. Make a few speeches; cobble together an economic plan; grease the unemployed a little -- it'll all work out (de'ja vu all over again.)
But when I heard the Realtors(tm) -- about as Republican an audience as you could find on the surface of this or any other planet -- venting their anger like that, I knew something had happened. Bush had lost his audience, and his mojo.
A couple of months later, when the New Hampshire primary came around, the Bushies found out, too. And they started to get scared, and pretty soon everyone in Washington could smell the fear. It was all down hill from there.
Doesn't mean it has to happen that way, this time. Might not happen at all. But it's the kind of thing I'll be looking for: the tipping point.
Posted January 14, 2003 07:36 PM | Comments (17)