Cindy's Winning--How Do We Do The Same?

There have been two Bush approval polls taken since Cindy Sheehan began her showdown with Bush in Crawford. One is by Survey USA, 8/12-8/15, which finds Bush coming in at his lowest ratings ever recorded: 41-55. Ramo has a lot more on this in his diary.

The second is from Rasmussen, which conducts a daily tracking poll. Today in Rasmussen, Bush has continued his precipitous decline, coming in at only 43-55, the lowest ever recorded in Rasmussen, and down from 47-52 before the vigil began. Further, in Rasmussen "strong" disapproval for Bush is now at 41%, tantalizingly close to his overall approval.

Now, Bush has been hitting a lot of lowest ever approval ratings from different polling firms lately, and Cindy Sheehan is not the only major problem for Bush right now. Thus, with only two polls, I can't prove that she is the cause. Still, Cindy Sheehan is the biggest negative story for Bush right now and, as I already mentioned, these are the worst umbers for Bush ever. It is, at the very least, highly coincidental that Bush is dropping even further during the vigil.

But what does this all mean? How can we maintain the momentum and the voice Cindy Sheehan has helped give us? A friend of mine who was around during the Vietnam era protests once told me that when the imagine of protest becomes the same as the image for average Americana, then you can sway public opinion. Jeffery Feldman notes that Cindy Sheehan has achieved just that:

The great success of Cindy Sheehan's protest, therefore, is no less than the moral authority for the Democratic Party to speak for the American family.

In other words, there are now two very clear claims on the American family at the heart of politics, and the claim by the anti-War Democrats has so much momentum that it has already forced every single Republican candidate running for office to rethink their strategies for the next few years.

At the heart of the Republican claim to speak for the family is a very narrow idea of marriage, and a reactionary nervousness about 'the culture' as a cause for social problems in America. For the Republicans, the key to translating this claim into political gains has been a broad scale effort to use state legislators to strip homosexuals of the full rights and privileges of American citizenship.

At the heart of the Democratic claim to speak for the family is a broad and powerful idea that the war in Iraq is killing America's children for no apparent reason, and a growing anger than unless American soldiers leave Iraq, America's hard-working and honest communities will be destroyed forever. For the Democrats, the track record for translating this claim into political gains has been very short--so far only one Ohio candidate has applied this claim to political gains.

Cindy is helping progressives once again make a national claim to speak for the American family--you can't get more Americana than that. Importantly, this is not the first time this happened this year:Some old stereotypes about the two parties have been reversed:

  • By 55%-40%, respondents say Republicans, traditionally the party of limited government, are "trying to use the federal government to interfere with the private lives of most Americans" on moral values.

  • By 53%-40%, they say Democrats, who sharply expanded government since the Depression, aren't trying to interfere on moral issues.
The debate over Schiavo has spotlighted the central role "values" issues -- abortion, stem-cell research, same-sex marriage and the right to live or die -- now play in politics.

Mark Rozell, a professor at George Mason University in Virginia who studies religion and politics, says the case has created a "clear backlash."

First, they were using the government to interfere with the private lives of families. Now, they are using the government to destroy families. Throw in Social Security, since a huge percentage of recipients are families who lost a parent, and in true Rovian fashion, we could run on the family, couldn't we? And isn't the deficit really a birth tax on our children?

I don't know what the exact message and visuals to run on the family would be, but the issues are clearly there. Shiavo, Sheehan, Social Security, deficits--it is a huge opening. Retake the family.

Tags: Democrats (all tags)



Why is Cindy the largest Negative Story?
One has to wonder what happened to:

  1. Downing Street Minutes.

  2. Rove-gate.

  3. Bolton recess appointment/visiting Judy Miller in jail/general jerk.

  4. Novak still walking the streets.

  5. The President saying he wouldn't rule out ATTACKING IRAN for Jimminy sakes!
by Robert P 2005-08-17 08:29AM | 0 recs
Re: Why is Cindy the largest Negative Story?
Oh, and Stem Cells, a Pork Bill...errr, I meant Energy Bill, a crooked Bankruptcy Bill, Medicare Prescription drugs with no bargaining power, etc.
by Robert P 2005-08-17 08:30AM | 0 recs
Re: Why is Cindy the largest Negative Story?
Actually... having read Jeffrey Feldman's post on the framing of Cindy Sheehan I disagreed immediately with Chris' statement that Cindy is the largest negative story. He misses that completely. Feldman is right. She is the greatest positive story for us.

The White House traitor investigation is the largest negative story so far for the bushies and in the end it will be the largest because it will take down several members of the administration.

by Andrew C White 2005-08-17 08:53AM | 0 recs
Re: Why is Cindy the largest Negative Story?
As an appellate advocate I was taught that I needed to make an emotional appeal to the justices to make them listen, then make a concise, well-thought out case on the law.  That way they would want to rule for me, and would have the means to do so.  

It is the same here.  What the Dems have so critically lacked for the last several years is an emotionally compelling narrative that people could connect with, see themselves in.  This is what the brilliant idea of "retaking the family" does.  

We are all political junkies.  We respond to things like Rove-gate, Judy Miller and the DSM.  Other people don't.  Not because they are stupid or shallow, but because THEIR LIVES REVOLVE AROUND SOMETHING BESIDES POLITICS.  Family is usually number one, although less and less is it the "traditional" family, and more and more can include disabled children and parents.  Work.  Friends.  Hobbies.  Sports.  Lots of things.

The Cindy Sheehan narrative is compelling because many people can see themselves in it, while they can't relate to the more abstract political issues.  For example, see Elizabeth Edwards' absolutely devastating letter reprinted at TAPPED that compares her own feelings at the loss of her son to Cindy Sheehan's loss.  

Once the average voter connects to the image of the Dem party as the one that wants to keep our children safe from death and maiming in unnecessary foreign wars, supports a secure old age, wants to let us let our loved ones die with dignity, wants to stay out of (or at the very least remove obstacles to) our own decisions about having or not having children, it is then a short and logical leap to seeing the Dem party as wanting to improve the schools our kids go to; improving chances of getting a job, whether it is by subsidizing higher education or job training; wanting to reduce OUR taxes not the Wal-Mart heirs' taxes; supporting some kind of affordable health care for all, and ending the rampant corruption that has overtaken DC under the GOP.

Once that connection is made, we win.  But the initial emotional connection based on a compelling narrative has to be there or they will tune all the rest out.  Again, not because they are stupid or shallow, but because their lives don't revolve around polcitics as we know and love it.

by Mimikatz 2005-08-17 09:53AM | 0 recs
Ooh Ooh Mr. Kotter!
We received a letter from Cindy as she was considering making her trip to Crawford, she was asking for advice and support, we told her she should go and that we'd do our best to help.

As she started working her way toward the "ranch"...we started promoting.  We wrote to local papers, contacted writers for major magazines, alerted the netroots and within 12 hours things had begun to appeal to a national audience.  Enough connections were made so that a polarization occured with everone pointing towards Crawford.

After that we started working on phrasing the issue and working on logisitics, legal matters and humanitarian needs.

It took about 12 talented folks to really get in there and work.

Now, we should all be able to do this with other issues in the future.  Share resources, allow others a chance to point the way over an issue and do some support work for them.

I really feel like the nylon curtain of opposition to progressives is falling away.  It's our turn.  America wants a change and we have the answers.

by goplies 2005-08-17 08:40AM | 0 recs
Do I hear one ---one! single prominent democrat, from Howard Dean down to those Great Whores of mediocrity Kerry and Hillary, echoing Cindy's call for immediate withdrawal from Iraq NOW? (And BTW, do I hear one single Democrat hanging $3 gasoline around W's neck?)  
We are the party of the brain dead; we are the party of the spineless, we are the party that makes it possible for W and his associated vermin to do their filthy work.
The Democratic party? Take advantage of Cindy
Sheehan's courage? You've gotta be kidding. Our party can hardly take a minute off from feeding at the trough --and selling out America-- to even acknowledge the EXISTENCE of heroes like Cindy Sheehan.
 From the Democrats, we hear silence, and the silence is thundering --and enabling.
Cindy may be in the ditch; but our party is in the tank. How can a normal person not be sick at his/her stomach to watch this Ship of Fools as they guide the world to tragedy and disaster.
by Jolly frog 2005-08-17 08:41AM | 0 recs
Re: Democrats
Trashing their own fellow Democrats has long been a practice that has been used by the GOP against them in general elections.  And for that reason, I'm a little more wary of using such caustic tones as Jolly Frog.  

More than that, most Democrats DID support the war and most still do (Biden and his calls for more troops).  Most of us who read these blogs recognize the flat-out falseness of W's pre-war rhetoric.  Why can't this administration be called to defend their motivational shift?  They won't even acknowledge that a shift occurred.  

I don't think the Democrats ought to hop on Cindy Sheehan's crusade.  Her tragedy is universally understood and needs no ampliplification by political parties.  She and the media should be able to handle that alone.  

But I agree with JF that, if they were wise, the Democrats should cease and desist with their pro-war talk.  There's nothing to be ashamed of in their position.  Most of the country was initially fooled that this war was justified.  We just have to tap into that outrage.  

by cschmitt 2005-08-17 09:34AM | 0 recs
Re: Democrats
Biden and Hillary will be caught naked when the tide goes out next year.  Bush is GOING to reduce troop levels.  They will dramatically annouce troop withdrawals next year and will adopt the strategy of hunkering 50,000 troops down in four or so secure bases to protect Iraq from invasion from Iran or Syria.  The Dems will look like fools if they say we should keep more troops in longer.  Not just fools, but crazy fools.

Bush has no other choice.  The military has told him.  They will declare victory and begin the withdrawals in time for the US midterms.  

Remaking the Middle East or any other part of the world by military means is now perceived by a majority to be nonsense.  They may recognize the need to be engaged abroad, but are rejecting military means as the way to do it.  The Dem national security folks have to get in front of Bush and not try running to his right.  That is a dead bang loser.  Dean may have been too early, but he was right, and the rest of the party has to recognize the wrongness not just of the conduct of the war but the premise of the war as well.  Blame it on the faked intell--that is 2 birds with one stone.

by Mimikatz 2005-08-17 10:01AM | 0 recs
Re: Democrats

The reason we aren't calling for withdrawal is that we do not want to be blamed for the carnage as Iraq devolves into the inevitable civil war/muslim theocracy.  We want no one but W and his smug friends to take the fall on that one.

The Spoiler

by The Spoiler 2005-08-17 11:42AM | 0 recs
How's this?
It's asking for a timetable and not neccessarily immediate withdrawl, but...

Feingold To Make Series Of Speeches On The Administration's Flawed National Security Policy
Lack of Coherent Iraq Policy is Further Evidence that the Administration has Lost its Focus on Making the Country Safer
July 28, 2005

Washington, D.C. -- U.S. Senator Russ Feingold late yesterday gave the first in a series of speeches on the administration's dangerous failure to develop a strong national security policy that protects U.S. interests. Feingold's speech last night emphasized the need for sustained attention and debate regarding the future of the U.S. military commitment to Iraq. Future speeches will place Iraq in the context of a broader national security vision, emphasizing the need to refocus US efforts on a global campaign to expose terrorist networks, to deny them opportunities to sustain themselves and grow, and to defeat them decisively.

In June, Feingold introduced a resolution, the first of its kind in the Senate, that calls on the President to identify the specific missions that the U.S. military is being asked to accomplish in Iraq, the timeframe in which those missions can be successfully achieved, and the timeframe in which U.S. troops can subsequently return home from Iraq. Feingold traveled with four of his Senate colleagues to Iraq in February.

"It's time for Congress to have a serious debate about the situation in Iraq and how it fits into the campaign against terrorism," Feingold said. "Post 9/11, the Administration published a list of countries where al Qaeda was operating. Iraq wasn't even on it. Now it's the number one training ground for terrorists from around the world. Our nation's security is at stake and it's time for Congress and the administration to level with the American people, and develop a policy worthy of our brave men and women in uniform."

This was the first in a series of speeches Feingold plans to give in an effort to make sure that the country's leaders pay sustained attention to the global fight against terrorist networks and ensure that our policies in Iraq are consistent with that fight.

"When I was in Iraq in February, I was able to witness firsthand the resolve all of our troops and I cannot describe how very proud I am of all of those who serve," Feingold said. "It is with those soldiers in mind that I will continue to put pressure on the President to clarify the objectives and timeframe of the current U.S. mission in Iraq. We owe our brave servicemen and women a concrete timetable for achieving clear goals, not vague, open-ended commitments. Our effort in the fight against terrorism, and the confidence of the American people, will be strengthened by a clear sense of where we are going in Iraq, and when we can realistically expect to get there.

by Geotpf 2005-08-17 01:39PM | 0 recs
Re: Democrats
It could also be phrased:

"We are the Party that works for a living."

by goplies 2005-08-17 03:36PM | 0 recs
Feldman's post regarding
the Grieving Mom frame is right on target.

Likewise i would like to bring attention to the No nonsense in Novemeber campaign in Texas. This is an excellent example of reframing a battle with the right wing so that we are fighting their craziness on our ground, on our terms, and using their nuttiness against them in a positive fashion for us and a negative one for them.

by Andrew C White 2005-08-17 08:56AM | 0 recs
Feldman's analysis is right.  This is the biggest positive story.  The largest negative story is that President Bush continues to lack leadership on this issue. He simply refuses to tell it straight to the American people, whether that's his the failure of his policies in securing Iraq or understanding why a grieving mother does not want her son - or any child - to be a reason why others should die.

Also, for those of you interested in taking back the Senate, I saw this on Hotline:

"32 RHODE ISLAND: Bring Home The Troops
Sec/State Matt Brown (D) called for Pres. Bush "to set a timetable to start bringing American troops home from Iraq in six months." Brown: "We have set timetables for the Iraqis to establish a new government, draft a constitution and conduct free elections -- and now we need to set a timetable to bring our troops home" (release, 8/17)."

Good for him.  That's calling it straight.

by My Fedora 2005-08-17 09:24AM | 0 recs
Gas Prices
I think that's the biggest force. I guess the job market is okay, but I heard about lots of cuts the last couple of months and some analyst said job growth will probably slow towards the end of the year. Econ issues really affect people, especially jobs/wages and gas prices. Democrats need to back an inc in the minimum wage(every Senate Democrat who voted, voted for Kennedy amendment to inc the min. wage earlier this year, even though it failed). energy indepence, Dems need to say that over and over again.  I'm guessing those are huge factors, in addition to the violence in Iraq and, of course, Sheehan. It goes without saying, but I mean, when you have her out there in the hot sun, and Bush bike riding and saying ridiculous things like, "I need to move on with my life" that's not going to help him. The whole protest and how he has handled it has really been a PR nightmare for Bush, I think.
by jj32 2005-08-17 09:30AM | 0 recs
I hope it's true
I live in Atlanta which has a lot of both blue and red staters. And I don't get the impression Cindy is inspiring people that much. People in general seem to be vacillating on her. Personally, quite frankly, I find myself vacillating too. I love the fact that someone has the guts to stand up to Bush. But her left wing friends like Moore should have given her lessons in savviness. She comes across as whiny to me. I do get her point about Bush being a shallow guy. I do think , unlike Sheehan does, he is sad when he hears about soldiers dying, but I agree with Sheehan he doesn't lose any sleep over it.

But I disagree the President should have the time to know every single name of every dead soldier's mom. I get her point that Bush is so shallow he probably didn't give a fuck who was in the room. But I wish it wasn't emphasized that much.

The thing that troubles me is not her inlaws. They are traitorous morons who were so classless in sending Drudge that letter. What bothers me a little is that she says her family supports her but you hear of her own husband filing papers at such a crucial time(don't tell me he couldn't have postponed the timing for a month) and her own son doesn't seem to be by her side. She seems all alone. If she is trying to put a spin on her support at home, I can't trust her judgement 100%.

Anyway, I haven't studied her case carefully, so I am just giving you the perception out there. I am anti-Bush and anti Iraq war and even I don't seem to have such a great impression of Sheehan from what I have seen. Whether my perception is wrong or right is not the issue. The issue is that my perception is not fully positive. So imagine the regular voter out there who is to the right of me on the war issue. If Iraq war support is going down even more, i am not sure it's mainly because of Sheehan.

by Pravin 2005-08-17 09:33AM | 0 recs
where is Hillary? where are the Democrats?
The only national Democrat with the decency and courage to come down to Crawford and show her solidarity with Cindy Sheehan has been Rep. Maxine Waters of California.  John Conyers has been quite active in sending out petitions and stuff, but actions speak louder than words.

From the beginning of this sitin down in Crawford I have been worried about Cindy's safety.  I prayed for her often, not as much as I should, but I did feel compelled to pray for her.  Then the incident happened with the crazy redneck who drove his truck over the crosses and American flags.  I heard press reports that the man responsible for this has been arrested, but that Cindy Sheehan does not want to press charges.  She has more forgiveness than I do.  I would prosecute this moron to the full extent of the law.  Innnocent people could have been killed or injured.

And that is why Miss High and Mighty Hillary, John Kerry, and all the other "stay the course" Democrats should get down to Crawford and show some respect and solidarity with this brave woman.  This woman has put herself in harm's way, and her sacrifice should be honored.

by MichiganDemocrat 2005-08-17 11:54AM | 0 recs
Re: where is Hillary? where are the Democrats?
Cindy is a typical Socialist whack job. Her son joined the military to serve his country. He did his job willingly, and paid the ultimate price.
Nice job, Cindy, of disgracing your late son's legacy. I'm embarrassed for Cindy and for her outward disgrace of her son's memory. Nice job with Cindy's antisemmetic rantings.  
by Maddog 2005-08-18 10:33AM | 0 recs
Which rantings would those be?
Or are you a typical corporatist whack job, just parroting any smear the Reep bull$#!+ machine cares to lay on their opponents?
by catastrophile 2005-08-18 11:51AM | 0 recs
Chris Bell
Is running for governor on a "pact with parents" in Texas.  I think that is really smart.  Check it out.
by Garemko 2005-08-17 04:00PM | 0 recs


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