What accounts for President George W. Bush’s recent and durable rise in the polls? Some argue the president is doing exceptionally well among female voters. Still others notice he’s doing better among blacks than he did in 2000. Of course, the simplest answer is that the war on terror — whether or not one includes the Iraq War in that family of issues — is the dominant theme of the campaign, and in no physical model of the universe is that a formula for victory for a career peacenik like John Kerry.
Regardless of your school of thought, the trend is indisputable. States that once “leaned Democrat” (like Minnesota) are now “toss-ups” and states that were “toss-ups” (like Ohio and New Hampshire) just a few weeks ago now “lean Republican.”
I believe I have stumbled upon one underpinning phenomenon driving this trend. I call it “Hate Fatigue.” The theory is this: the Democrats wasted their hate for George W. Bush on movies, books, blogs, meet-ups, commission hearings, and protests over the last three years and they have just about run out of steam. And now that the election is upon us, their potent venom has run dry. Some have just given up.
One of the aforementioned Democrat states, New Jersey, provides a good example. Not even the most enthusiastic partisan should expect the Garden State to be in play this year. And yet a recent poll by Farleigh Dickinson University shows the race to be remarkably close there, 45%-44%. This is a reasonably strong figure for Bush (who received 40% of the N.J. vote in 2000), but the real story is closeness of the ballot and the exceptionally low figure for John Kerry (Al Gore received 56% of the N.J. vote in 2000.) To make matters worse for Kerry, 66% of Garden State Democrats “wish they had different choices” for president. And while President Bush is pulling down 85% of the state’s Republican vote, John Kerry is receiving only 76% of its Democrat votes.
Lest we conclude this simply amounts to a lack of enthusiasm for Kerry personally, consider this datum: while two-third of Democrats believe Kerry will win New Jersey in November, only one-third of all Democrats think it will ultimately result in a Kerry presidency.
These people are demoralized.
BUT LET’S BE HONEST, this is New Jersey and the bulk of undecideds will swing to Kerry on Election Day, especially if they are undecided Democrats. Or they may not vote at all. Such a cocktail of Democratic frustrations and apathy often results in a suppressed Democratic turnout. That’s how Ronald Wilson Reagan — who was nowhere near as universally beloved in life as he is in death — won Democrat states like New Jersey in 1984.
I have spoken to several Republican and politically unaffiliated pollsters in recent weeks and they confirm this trend is consistent throughout the country. In places where many voters are still furious about the Iraq War, President Bush is nonetheless on the move.
Again, I attribute these trends to a “Hate Fatigue” that hangs over the Democrat Party. I first encountered it in New Hampshire during the primary campaign. On a night when Howard Dean still rode high in the polls, I strolled into a bar and was shocked to see the place filled with young people clad in Dean for President grab, drinking imported beer, bee-bopping to alt rock, and cruising for hook-ups. That night I decided Dean would lose because his campaign mistook a visceral hatred for George W. Bush, expressed with fervency at meet-ups and chat rooms, with actual electioneering. Dean fell to earth almost as swiftly as he ascended to prominence.
Kerry, who benefited from the Deaniacs’ childish hatred in the primary, has now fallen victim to a corollary phenomenon in this General Election. If some voters are still undecided after learning that George W. Bush is actually Adolf Hitler, knew about 911 before it happened, and alternately has Osama bin Laden in secret custody and has no interest in apprehending him at all, what more information could John Kerry possibly give them to push them over the edge? Jacques Chirac’s home phone number?
And so many haters have turned to other venues to gratify their political urges. They purchased entries in the Bush Haters Book-of-the-Month Club by the hundreds of thousands. They were glued to their small screen during the so-called 9/11 Commission hearings. They flocked to obese, low-budget filmmaker Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 911 to suspend their disbelief and see what the world would be like if all their conspiratorial dreams came true.
But the movie is over. The credits have rolled. The lights are back on. And the radicals are out of their seats, stretching and yawning. They are tired and emotionally spent. It’s time to go home. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Bush is still Hitler. But hey, they bought some books. They saw the movie. They even blogged. What more could the Democrat Party want from them?