Dear Commons Community,
Frank Luntz, a communications adviser and Republican pollster, and president of Luntz Global Partners, has an op-ed piece in today’s New York Times, analyzing Tuesday’s election results. In sum, he is warning Republicans that their victories on Tuesday were not an endorsement of their ideas and positions as much as a rejection of incumbents in Washington, D.C. To quote:
“On election night 1994, as Republicans recaptured the House for the first time in 40 years, I stood in the audience and watched my client Newt Gingrich, who would soon become speaker of the House, declare the beginning of the “Republican revolution.”
I knew immediately that the smartest man I had ever worked for was making the worst rhetorical blunder of his career. Nobody voted Republican to start a revolution. They did so because they were fed up with a Democratic president overreaching on health care and a government seemingly incapable of doing even the smallest thing effectively. We all know what happened when Mr. Gingrich tried to turn his rhetoric into action.
Sound familiar? No one is quite saying “revolution” this week, but Republicans across the country, in their glee over Tuesday’s elections, are coming dangerously close to making the same mistake.
True, there will now be more Americans under Republican representation than at any time in decades. And the re-elections of G.O.P. governors in blue states like Michigan and Wisconsin are certainly a validation of their policies. It was a tsunami; someone needs to get the Democrats a towel. But that anti-Democrat wave was not the same as a pro-Republican endorsement. In many races that went from blue to red, Republican success was hardly because of what the G.O.P. has achieved on Capitol Hill. In fact, if Americans could speak with one collective voice — all 310 million of them — this is what they said Tuesday night: “Washington doesn’t listen, Washington doesn’t lead and Washington doesn’t deliver.” Purple states tossed out their Democratic senators for being too close to Washington and too far from the people who put them there.
The current narrative, that this election was a rejection of President Obama, misses the mark. So does the idea that it was a mandate for an extreme conservative agenda. According to a survey my firm fielded on election night for the political-advocacy organization Each American Dream, it was more important that a candidate “shake up and change the way Washington operates.”
I didn’t need a poll to tell me that. This year I traveled the country listening to voters, from Miami to Anchorage, 30 states and counting. And from the reddest rural towns to the bluest big cities, the sentiment is the same. People say Washington is broken and on the decline, that government no longer works for them — only for the rich and powerful.
… Our election night survey showed that 42 percent chose their Senate candidate because they hated the opponent more. One pre-election poll had over 70 percent willing to throw everyone out and start fresh.”
Mr. Luntz hits the mark with his analysis. The American people are fed up with our elected officials in Washington, D.C. Polls during the past year indicated that they are more fed with Congress than with President Obama whose approval ratings hover around 40%. By contrast, Congressional approval ratings are at about 13%. Americans don’t care about Democratic solutions or Republican solutions. They want common-sense solutions that make everyday life just a little bit easier. But they can’t get their houses in order until Washington gets its own house in order.