The results of two recent polls show that the relationship between the two major Presidential candidates and their respective voter base is completely different.
The Field Poll, in a May 26th, 2004 Press Release, says:
Voter support for Kerry is based more on voters’ desire to unseat Bush than it is a positive endorsement of the Massachusetts Senator. Two in three (65%) of those who prefer Kerry say their vote is more of a vote against Bush than it is support for the Democrat. The pattern is completely different among Bush voters. Seven in ten (71%) of those who prefer Bush say they are expressing support for him and just 25% say they are voting against Kerry. [33% of Kerry supporters say they are voting for Kerry.]
This echoes the sentiments recorded in a May 7th press release on polling done by Survey USA, which showed even wider disparities on the Republican side: 80% for Bush, and 17% against Kerry, 35% for Kerry and 61% against Bush.
This demonstrates that 2004 a classic “lesser of two evils” election, in the view of voters to the left end of the spectrum. The result may, ultimately (hopefully?) be a victory for Kerry this fall, but at the same time, points up how weak and out of contact with their base the Democratic Party as a whole is… a very dangerous situation, politically, to be in. Republicans are FOR their candidate, Democrats are AGAINST the other candidate. Which is a more sustainable position? I think the answer is obvious.
California’s two recent gubernatorial elections demonstrate this quite clearly:
Election One: Davis runs an all out attack campaign, and paints Simon as a dangerous fanatic and an incompetent fool, and narrowly wins by convincing people that whatever reservations they have about him, he’s the “lesser of two evils”.
Election Two: On an up or down vote, Davis gets dumped. His party’s proposed replacement, Cruz Bustamante, attracts barely a third of the voters, and is wiped out by a tidal wave of pro-Arnie sentiment… why? All the voters in the middle didn’t feel it necessary to vote AGAINST Arnie.
Moral of the lesson? You can’t build a sustainable majority on a negative. When the negative is neutralized or lessened, you lose.
That said, perhaps the more interesting question is, how did the Democratic Party wind up in this position? It could be argued that this is a product of how utterly repulsive Bush is to the average Kerry supporter – so much so, that, on our side, all the energy that might otherwise go into pro-Kerry sentiment has been diverted to anti-Bush sentiment… but it seems to me that the answer is more complex (and in line with the core theme of this blog): the media environment is like a super-conductor for pro-Bush/pro-conservative sentiment, and an insulator for pro-Kerry/pro-liberal sentiment. In a sense, Kerry and the Democrats have no choice but to pursue a “lesser of two evils” campaign, because that is the only way they can get their message out: they have to fight Bush on his own terrain, and on his own issues, in order to be heard.
It is fortunate that Bush is so bad… can you imagine how hopeless the situation would be, if Bush *hadn’t* pursued such a radical agenda? I shudder to think of it. As it is, it looks like Kerry is ahead in the polls by a narrow margin.