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Thursday, January 20, 2011

Solidifying Our Losses

by digby

I and others have mentioned before that one of the great untold stories of the last election is the one in which Republicans rand against Democrats for "cutting Medicare." Aside from "Obama's socialism" it was their only real issue of the campaign.

(H/t to Dave Johnson at CAF)

After that assault (which was relentless here in California, and I assume every where else)is this any surprise?

President Barack Obama's apparent willingness to consider cuts in Social Security benefits may be winning him points with Washington elites, but it's killing him with voters, who see the program as inviolate and may start to wonder what the Democratic Party stands for, if not for Social Security.

That's the conclusion of three top progressive pollsters who spoke to reporters Wednesday at a briefing sponsored by the Economic Policy Institute, the Century Foundation and Demos.

"For the public, cutting benefits is the problem, not the solution," said Guy Molyneux, a partner at Hart Research Associates.

As a result, the pollsters said that any Democrat seeking elected office in 2012 should be begging Obama not to say anything about Social Security cuts in his State of the Union address later this month.

A post-election poll by Celinda Lake's Lake Research Partners found that, by a margin of 3 percentage points, Americans now trust Republicans in Congress more than Democrats when it comes to Social Security -- surely the first time since the program became a signature issue for the Democratic Party in the 1930s.

The poll found confidence in Democrats on the issue dropping 14 points just since January 2007, accompanied by a 13-point increase for Republicans.

The public favors congressional Republicans over Obama on Social Security by an even larger 6-point margin. Obama's 26-percent rating is not only less than half Bill Clinton's (53 percent), it's even lower than that of George W. Bush (37 percent), whose proposal to privatize the program went down in flames.

It's hard to overstate how shocking this new dynamic is. In the two previous low points for Democrats -- June 1995 and April 2002 -- Democrats still had a 10-point advantage on Social Security.

That the public would trust Republicans more on this issue was, until recently, inconceivable.

The pollsters had no doubt that the turnaround stems from statements by Obama and other Democratic leaders expressing their openness to cuts in Social Security. "It's the rhetoric that says things like, 'Everything is on the table,'" said Lake. "That's not how the public feels. This isn't a policy debate in the public's mind, this is a core value."

When Democrats say they're open to cuts in Social Security, some voters are less drawn to the party, said Stan Greenberg of Democracy Corps.

"This is central to what Democrats do," he said. "Once you pull back on that, what is it that Democrats believe in, that you want them in office at a time like this?"

And it takes away one of the most potent Democratic arguments against Republicans. Historical GOP hostility to Social Security, Greenberg said, "is a critical part of their vulnerability."

Greenberg said his surveys show that even in the context of deficit reduction, cutting Social Security benefits is hugely unpopular. "There is no stomach for bringing Social Security in any way into this debate, and it fundamentally damages progressives and Democrats if they bring Social Security into it," he said.

"It's a great way to really solidify our losses," Lake said.

Any Democrats who think that the Republicans will not run "independent" expenditure ads against them for cutting social security are delusional. The senior vote is the GOP's most reliable age demographic at the moment, what with that strange man in the White House slashing Medicare and all. They will seal the deal if he tries to "fix" social security. I suppose it will even out if Obama can recreate the 08 magic and get all those young people out to work and vote for him with equal enthusiasm. What are the odds of that happening?

Regardless of all that election unpleasantness, it will certainly make some Villagers and wealthy plutocrats happy though, so maybe it's worth it.

Celinda Lake is correct. This is a core value of the Democratic Party. If they decide to throw this on the fire in the name of appeasing the imaginary bond vigilantes or to prove to the market gods that they really, truly are willing to sacrifice their own people in the name of Austerity, then the party will have pretty much talked itself out of its raison d'etre.

Update: these Third Way centrists can call themselves "progressive" all they want, but it won't make it so. This "plan" is nothing more than a phase in of social security as a (very) old age welfare program with a side of privatization for young people. If you're a 55 year old who liked losing all your money in the stock market and real estate crashes, you'll love this plan.

Read more about why this plan should be dead on arrival.

Update II: Oh, here's a surprise:

In a CNN/Opinion Research Corp. survey released Thursday to mark the second anniversary of Obama’s inauguration, 45 percent of voters under 50 say he’s been a failure and 47 percent believe he’s succeeded, compared with a majority — 51 percent — of adults over 50 who think he’s failed and 45 percent saying he’s done well.

“The generation gap that surfaced in the 2008 election persists two years later,” says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland.

“Most people who are 50 or older say that Obama has been a failure in office; a plurality of younger Americans think his administration has been a success.”

That's a funny way to describe those numbers, but whatever. The fact is that people over 50 are the ones who have been financially destroyed in the this economy and don't have time to make it back again. You get older, you get a little concerned about things like Social Security and Medicare and worry when the whole damned government seems on a crusade to get rid of it.