By Robert Silvey
All statistics are created equal, but some are more equal than others. Nevertheless, whatever numbers you consult, the rapid erosion in Republican power is undeniable.
Take that Newsweek poll to the right. Now that George Bush’s approval rating has fallen to 28 percent, we may calculate, as Mark Kleiman does, that the Bush swoon has been at a steady rate of 12 percent per year ever since we all went nuts with fear in September 2001. There was one significant uptick when Iraq was invaded, but then the drip-drip-drip of recognition resumed, as an average of one percent of voters each month saw the truth. Extrapolating from that trend, we may confidently predict that by January 2009 only 8 percent of Americans will approve of the outgoing president.
But Michael O’Hare calculates that the numbers are even worse for Bush:
When he went down 12 points from 80 to 68, it meant that about 15% of his supporters left the building. But the last twelve points, from 40 to 28, represents not only almost a one-third loss of his support, but loss from what were presumably the most dedicated fans among the starting group.
So the number of Bush Republicans may be zero by the time Barack Obama (with Republican votes) moves into the White House.
Similarly, I calculate that by late August enough Republican congressfolk will be ready to vote for troop withdrawal timelines, and Nancy Pelosi will have a veto-proof majority. How do I come to that conclusion? Simple. On April 25, the conference report on Iraq funding and withdrawal passed the House with 218 votes. On May 2, seven days later, the attempt to override Bush’s veto of that same bill attracted 222 votes; four House members changed their minds in one week. At that rate, it will take only 17 more weeks to reach the magic veto-killing number of 290. By August 29 (give or take 24 hours), two-thirds of the House will be ready to vote for withdrawal, and Bush will have no choice but capitulation.
Given the foolishness of such exactitude, it’s surprising that GOP House leader John Boehner came to almost the same conclusion. Yesterday he said, “By the time we get to September, October, members are going to want to know how well this is working, and if it isn’t, what’s Plan B?” That’s pretty closeâ€”September! I’m almost tempted to think there’s more to such numerical fun and games than we thought.
To stay on the safe side, however, perhaps it’s enough to say that Bush’s support is crumbling, but we don’t know how many more Republicans will defect, or when. All else is wishful conjecture. It was Mark Twain in Life on the Mississippi who pointed out the dangers of extrapolation (hat tip to O’Hare):
In the space of one hundred and seventy-six years the Lower Mississippi has shortened itself two hundred and forty-two miles. That is an average of a trifle over one mile and a third per year. Therefore, any calm person, who is not blind or idiotic, can see that in the Old Oolitic Silurian Period, just a million years ago next November, the Lower Mississippi River was upwards of one million three hundred thousand miles long, and stuck out over the Gulf of Mexico like a fishing-rod. And by the same token any person can see that seven hundred and forty-two years from now the Lower Mississippi will be only a mile and three-quarters long, and Cairo and New Orleans will have joined their streets together, and be plodding comfortably along under a single mayor and a mutual board of aldermen. There is something fascinating about science. One gets such wholesale returns of conjecture out of such a trifling investment of fact.
All right. Let’s just say that now we have the wind at our backs, but that the wind could change. That Republican count may never reach zeroâ€”I’m sure Karl, Laura, and Barney will always remain loyal.
[Cross-posted at Rubicon]
Categories: American Culture