With Republican approval ratings continuing their slide from weak to dismal, Democrats should be gearing up to challenge the Republican Party's decade-long congressional dominance. To do so would require active propagation of new ideas. Instead, Democrats are relying on the unpopularity of Republicans to drive voters into their waiting arms. "CIA LEAK SCANDAL: The White House's Campaign for War: The cover-up is just as bad as the crime," blares the Democratic National Committee (DNC) website, www.democrats.org. "Republicans Again Fail America on Energy Independence," the website further proclaims. "Republican Culture of CORRUPTION," adds the website.
The perennial Democratic Party slogan is "We're Not Republicans -- Vote For Us!" It won't be enough. Democratic leaders seem to forget they are almost as unpopular as Republicans. A May 8, 2006, The New York Times/CBS News poll showed President Bush with a 31 percent approval rating, but it also showed Senator Hillary Clinton (D-NY) garnering a 34 percent favorability rating (vs. 35 percent unfavorable), Senator John Kerry (D-MA) with a 26 percent approval rating (vs. 38 percent unfavorable), and former Vice President Al Gore with a 28 percent approval rating (vs. 39 percent unfavorable). More tellingly, while only 23 percent of Americans approved of how Congress was doing its job, Americans still approved of how their congressional representative was handling his/her job by a margin of 53 percent to 31 percent.
While Democrats are championing statistics showing that Americans prefer Democrats to Republicans in a generic sense, generic questions about the Democratic or Republican parties say little about how people actually vote. Michael Barone of U.S. News and World Report rightly points out, "In the five House elections from 1996 to 2004, there has been very little variation in the popular vote percentages for both parties. The Republican percentage of the popular vote for the House has fluctuated between 49 and 51 percent, the Democratic percentage between 46 and 48.5 percent. This has been true despite great differences in the job ratings of the parties' leading figures." Barone attributes this electoral stasis to cultural differences between left and right, observing that war and economics have had little impact on the voting breakdown.