Dear swing voters, you suck. Love, The White House

by: Chris Bowers

Tue Aug 10, 2010 at 11:15


In an interview with The Hill, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs goes after the left:

The press secretary dismissed the "professional left" in terms very similar to those used by their opponents on the ideological right, saying, "They will be satisfied when we have Canadian healthcare and we've eliminated the Pentagon. That's not reality."

Of those who complain that Obama caved to centrists on issues such as healthcare reform, Gibbs said: "They wouldn't be satisfied if Dennis Kucinich was president."(...)

Progressives, Gibbs said, are the liberals outside of Washington "in America," and they are grateful for what Obama has accomplished in a shattered economy with uniform Republican opposition and a short amount of time.

Oy, on many levels.

If the White House really doesn't think it has any problems among self-identified liberals or progressives, and that all the complaints are coming from a grasstop elite, it needs to look at the data again.  From 2008 to 2010, President Obama has suffered far more erosion of support among self-identified liberals than among self-identified moderates or conservatives:

  • In 2008, according to exit polls, 89% self-identified liberals voted for President Obama.  Over the past four weeks, according to Gallup, President Obama's approval rating among self-identified liberals has averaged 74%. That is a decline of 15 points.

  • In 2008, according to exit polls, 60% of self-identified moderates voted for President Obama.  Over the past four weeks, according to Gallup, President Obama's approval rating among self-identified moderates has averaged 54%.  That is a decline of 6 points.

  • In 2008, according to exit polls, 20% of self-identified conservatives voted for President Obama. Over the past four weeks, according to Gallup, President Obama's approval rating has averaged 24% among self-identified conservatives.  That is an increase of 4 points.
So, according to Gallup, disapproval among self-identified liberals accounts for the majority of President Obama's approval rating underperformance compared to his 2008 vote share (from the perspective that the smaller decline among moderates is partially canceled out by the small gain among conservatives).  If it were not for President Obama's decline among liberals, there would be virtually no difference between his 2010 approval rating and 2008 voter performance.

Maybe the White House knows that its problem among self-identified liberals is not confined to the grasstops.  Maybe it is "reaching out" to liberals in this insulting manner because it figures that while it has lost more support among liberals than among any other group, those liberals are still going to vote Democratic anyway.

If that is what Gibbs is thinking here, he is quite foolish.  Self-identified liberals are a large swing voter group, and their vote for Democrats is neither static nor guaranteed: (more in the extended entry)

Chris Bowers :: Dear swing voters, you suck. Love, The White House
[F]rom 2004 to 2008, Democrats appear to have gained more votes from self-identified liberals than from any other ideological group.

  • In 2004, according to exit polls, 17.85% of the electorate were self-identified liberals who voted for Kerry

  • In 2008, according to exit polls, 19.58% of the electorate were self-identified liberals who voted for Obama.

  • From 2004 to 2008, exit polls estimate that the Democratic Presidential nominee improved his overall vote percentage by 1.73% entirely through self-identified liberals.
By way of comparison:
  • In 2004, according to exit polls, 24.84% of the electorate were self-identified moderates who voted for Kerry.

  • In 2008, according to exit polls, 26.40% of the electorate were self-identified moderates who voted for Obama.

  • From 2004 to 2008, the Democratic Presidential nominee improved his overall vote percentage by 1.56% entirely among self-identified moderates.
So, according to exit polls, Democrats actually gained more from 2004 to 2008 among self-identified liberals than among self-identified moderates. Conservatives were not far behind, either:
  • In 2004, according to exit polls, 5.44% of the electorate were self-identified conservatives who voted for Kerry.

  • In 2008, according to exit polls, 6.80% of the electorate were self-identified conservatives who voted for Obama.

  • From 2004 to 2008, the Democratic Presidential nominee improved his overall vote percentage by 1.36% entirely among self-identified conservatives.
Swing voters from 2004 to 2008 were spread fairly evenly across the ideological spectrum, with liberals, moderates and conservatives all making up significant portions. Although it is within the margin for rounding error, exit polling actually suggests that liberals were the largest swing voting block of all.

The size of the liberal vote for Democrats is not static. It never was static. Why anyone ever thought that the exact same number of self-identified liberals turn out to vote for Democrats in every single election is pretty mystifying.  Of course the percentage of self-identified liberals within the electorate changes from election to election, and of course the percentage of self-identified liberals voting for Democrats changes from election to election.  Liberals are swing voters, too.  If you want to perform well among these swing voters, you need to tend to them.  If high-level Democratic operatives don't understand this, then their ignorance is a massive disservice to the Democratic cause.

Still, the insulting and dismissive attitude that Robert Gibbs takes in this interview is hardly surprising.  For one thing, many establishment media types go fishing for caricatured "left vs Obama" stories like this. The story in today's The Hill was a perfect example. Check out this crazy paragraph:

In late July, Obama made a surprise video appearance, with an assist from Maddow, at the NetRoots  Nation convention in Las Vegas, where the professional left had gathered to grouse about its disappointment in the president.

Wow. The Hill defines the purpose of a convention where 84% of the attendees approved of President Obama's job performance as the gathering "to grouse about its disappointment in the president."  Facts be damned.  The intentions of this story are obvious.

It is not just The Hill, either. Personally, I have been on MSNBC three times since the 2008 election.  On every occasion, during the pre-interview, the first question I was asked was to list the many ways I am disappointed with Obama.  They wanted me to be a left-wing caricature hating on the administration.  When I actually appear, and cite facts like the ones above, they find it so boring and far from what they wanted that they didn't even post my last two appearances on their website.

Secondly, and more sadly, reaching out to the left by hating on it has a long, established tradition in Democratic politics.  Many Democratic elected officials feel that reaching out to moderates and conservatives means bending over backward to show those voters that they share their views.  However, many of those same elected officials consider left-wing outreach to be telling progressives to shut the fuck up and get in line.  With outreach like that, it is probably no wonder that President Obama's main problem with his approval rating right now is among self-identified liberals.

Update: PPP's polling showing Obama with a higher approval among self-identified liberals is irrelevant. Gallup's four-week sample is based on over 14,000 registered voters, producing a self-identified liberal subsample of 2,500 to 3,000, with a margin of error of less than plus or minus 2.  By contrast, PPP's last monthly survey was based on 667 registered voters, thus producing a liberal subsample of about 100-140, with a margin of error of plus or minus 9.

The PPP numbers are irrelevant given their astronomical margin of error.  


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Answers to Gibbs (4.00 / 6)
Gibbs's tough comments reflect frustration and some bafflement from the White House, which believes it has done a lot for the left.

It's hard to see clearly when you are peering through a bubble.

He's also added diversity to the Supreme Court by nominating two female justices, including the court's first Hispanic. Yet some liberal groups have criticized his nominees for not being liberal enough.

It's sad to see the Obama administration buying into the premise that style equals substance.  After all Clarence Thomas is black.  Get it?


Gibbs is an establishment douche bag. (4.00 / 2)
[ Parent ]
whoops. too fast on the trigger. (4.00 / 5)
Gibbs was in charge of that shadowy cabal that ran the heinous ad morphing Howard Dean's face into Bin Laden's right before the Iowa primary in 2004. He hates people power. He is a conservative at heart. His hippie-punching may be calculated or it could be him letting everyone know how he really feels. Either way, he's a douche.

miasmo.com

[ Parent ]
Well PPP says the opposite (0.00 / 0)
PPP has his approval among liberals at 85%, a couple of other polls said the same thing. Gallup reads like an outlier to me.  

The other ones are outliers (4.00 / 6)
Gallup's liberal subsample across four weeks is about 2,500 people. PPP's monthly liberal subsample is about 120. No contest there. PPP is the outlier.

[ Parent ]
I knew you'd post something defending Obama itt (0.00 / 0)
that said, I wasn't expecting contrary poll numbers- you surprised me, after all

[ Parent ]
Sticks and stones (4.00 / 13)
They never listen until they're forced to. It was the same way with Viet Nam; it's been the same way with Krugman. Two years ago he was shrill. Today in the NYT there's a front page article which implies that important members of the Federal Open Market Committee, including Ben Bernanke, now fear deflation, and given the idiocy on the subject in Congress, may be forced to adopt the quantitative easing which guess-what-shrill-outsider has been recommending all along.

President Obama has been a dismal failure in many areas:

1. Civil liberties (domestic spying, the end of due process, the national security exemptions from constitutional guarantees)

2. Education

3. Incarceration rates and the abominable War on Drugs

4. Science

5. Immigration policy

6. Economic policy

7. Foreign policy (Israel, our damned interminable wars, Latin America, our almost nonexistent State Department)

8. The military-industrial complex. (Runaway military spending and the attendant outsourcing of our military and intelligence capabilities, the incorporation of telecommunications and Internet advertising companies into the so-called Intelligence Community.)

9. Etc.

10. Etc.

The list is a long one, and you don't have to be a DFH to consider it a largely unaltered extension of Bush-era policies. Jane Hamsher may be irritating, and dense about tactics, but what she's saying isn't in substance a whole lot different from what James Galbraith, Tony Judt, Scott Horton, Andrew Bacevich, etc., have been saying. If they're all on drugs, then perhaps we should legalize drugs after all.


Here's an alternate theory (4.00 / 1)
Gibbs' BS propaganda is intended to (also) serve as a prophylactic, so that none of the docile, tamed lefties that he is concerned with even think of making sharp criticism, which rises to the level of "making him do it".

Gibbs and Obama surely prefer the veal penned left to a vocal left, which doesn't care if gets a Christmas card and a photo op from Obama, or not. (Or a cold shoulder from the JournOList tribe.)

Perhaps some non-veal-penned lefty of stature will write a letter to the "professional Democrats" occupying the White House, and ask them about their most offensive failures. Cue Chris Hedges...

435 Dem Primaries 2012
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which dimension of chess are we on? (0.00 / 0)
c'mon bro

[ Parent ]
If I understand what you are saying, (4.00 / 1)
despite numerous brilliant analyses that summarized the political situation by blaming the "left" for not making enough noise and not putting sufficient political pressure on Obama to "make him do it" as Obama himself suggested, in fact, you seem to be saying, the White House and Gibbs never really wanted the left to do anything except "clap louder" and shut the fuck up. This hardly sounds like the most commendable political stance.

[ Parent ]
"caricatured "left vs Obama" stories like this." (4.00 / 5)
uh, Gibbs was quoted verbatim, how is this caricatured?  their framing of NN was coarse but didn't put the words in Gibbs' mouth

also, it's not being a caricature to point out that this admin has been fucking terrible from a progressive point of view


Hey, They Noticed! (4.00 / 7)
I wasn't even sure they noticed criticism from the left existed.  At least we know we've got their attention.

Gibbs' Dog Whistle (4.00 / 15)
I've come to view this administration's hippie punching proclivities as being largely equivalent to Reagan's "welfare queens" meme. It's just Dog Whistle messaging for a very smug ruling elite. It's perfect messaging for the Sunday gasbag shows or The Hill, as it reaffirms the administration's hostility to most people in it's own party electoral base. His audience in this piece, after all, wasn't "little people," it was the elites in DC. Calling NN a confab of  the "professional left" was a pretty nice tell, as tells go. All he did in that interview was reconfirm this administration's intended vilification of those on the center-left that would dare criticize them for anything, for the benefit of people on The HIll, who are so busy trying to piss us off with everything they do. He was siding with the corrupt gasbags against genuine and legitimate criticism, by simply issuing high-school level insults. And these are supposed to be the serious people, The Adults.

So Gibb's can spew forth all the apologies he wants the next day, but it doesn't mean anything, since he "got it out there" and that was the whole point. To Get It Out There. Pols do this all the time. One person's "gaffe" is another person's Dog Whistle.

This is why this WH can fire an innocent person on bogus charges, ending her career, thinking a little apology is somehow good enough later. In the end, they still got it out there. They still think they can play both sides of the fence off of each other, by speaking out of both sides of their mouths. Punch hippies one day, then apologize the next, thinking both sides are going to be equally pleased by this bullshit behavior of theirs.

So, nicely done in your response, Chris. If POTUS had more than three functioning synapses, he would read your post and really think about it. They shouldn't be so eager to make suckers out of their electoral base. And yet, there it all is, in it's glory.

"More than any other time in history, mankind faces a crossroads. One path leads to despair and utter hopelessness. The other, to total extinction. Let us pray we have the wisdom to choose correctly." -Woody Allen, My Speech to the Graduates


Another Bowers analysis fail (4.00 / 16)

A drop in liberals' approval rating of Obama just shows how much liberals suck. They were given a "stimulus" and a "health care bill" and "financial reform." This is the most productive congress in decades.

Liberals are not swing voters. They aren't even people. If gays, minorities and young people don't vote because the Democratic party isn't representing their interests, they suck.

I don't know why they even poll liberals. Pollsters need to release approval rating polls with only real americans polled - like last year how CNN loved to do analyses showing that if you don't count black people, Americans voted for John McCain and that the new administration needed to watch itself.

Everyone knows swing voters are people who want to vote Republican - and hate liberals. The important thing is that Republican-leaning voters know that the Democrats are watching out for them and will never abandon them.

All this shows is that liberals suck and that the administration must redouble its hippie-punching. Chris, you need to spend more time in Washington. You'd know these things. Ask a DCCC intern or something.


Troll! (4.00 / 1)
"They aren't even people."

Way to go, sport! With that kind of insight, it seems to me you're in the wrong party.

"More than any other time in history, mankind faces a crossroads. One path leads to despair and utter hopelessness. The other, to total extinction. Let us pray we have the wisdom to choose correctly." -Woody Allen, My Speech to the Graduates


[ Parent ]
Sarcasm (4.00 / 3)

Just because the post sounded like Rahm doesn't mean it wasn't tongue-in-cheek.


[ Parent ]
Well whaddya know....(N/T) (0.00 / 0)


[ Parent ]
Dammit! My Snark Indicator Light didn't go off! (4.00 / 3)
Ever since I updated the flabware on my SUX 3000 Snark Detector, it's been all goofy on me.

Apologies and a rec..... :^)

"More than any other time in history, mankind faces a crossroads. One path leads to despair and utter hopelessness. The other, to total extinction. Let us pray we have the wisdom to choose correctly." -Woody Allen, My Speech to the Graduates


[ Parent ]
No no no no no! (4.00 / 8)
The SUX 3000 Snark Detector has nothing but bugs, no matter how often you update the software. You simply have to go with the VERSAILLES BELTWAY BARFOMETER 360. Sure, it costs a little more upfront, but worth every penny in the long run.

By the way, this was my favorite part:

like last year how CNN loved to do analyses showing that if you don't count black people, Americans voted for John McCain

Ha! Ha! As if Black people ever count!


[ Parent ]
You've convinced me: it doesn't pay to be cheap. (4.00 / 4)
Barfometer 360 it is! (That's classic. Be sure and copyright that!)

Per CNN, I think they use the Inverse Race-Baiting Standard Regression Analysis, in which 20 million black voters can be made to disappear altogether, but two beret-wearing black dudes in Philly can be blown up sufficiently to cause palpitations amongst CNN's prized 16-60 Cracker Demo. What's even more interesting, IMHO, is that the White House has internalized this method to great success! Well, according to them, anyway.

"More than any other time in history, mankind faces a crossroads. One path leads to despair and utter hopelessness. The other, to total extinction. Let us pray we have the wisdom to choose correctly." -Woody Allen, My Speech to the Graduates


[ Parent ]
sarcasm (4.00 / 4)
That's the problem:  I could totally see someone like Rahm saying something like that, and/or a blind Obama loyalist parroting it.

[ Parent ]
It might be irony (0.00 / 0)
I'm not sure that it is, but then I'm not sure about a lot these days, particularly in the universe of blog comments....

[ Parent ]
Love your title. As a lifelong liberal, a (4.00 / 4)
progressive, leftist, I'm not a "professional liberal." I absolutely hate that! It is insulting as you say.

I'm a citizen liberal. You know, Mr. Gibbs, it's called a citizen, a voter. Just one of the people.

Agree with everything you said in this post, Chris. Thank you for speaking my mind.


Why should I shut up? (4.00 / 5)
Why is that progressives, those among whom Obama's still high approval has dipped, are supposed to be satisfied with the mere fact of Obama's election and that we are not to care or criticize anything they do or do not do after the election?

Are we just there to punch the card, pull the lever, mail in the ballot and then retreat to the basement for four years while conservatives and moderates get to attend to defining and arguing about policy?

Because if that is what they think, I don't play that game. I am entitled to criticize the administration for any reason I choose and can articulate. As always I am responsible for my decisions, rhetoric, and actions should I choose to criticize. Unhappiness is not a free pass to relieve me of the responsibility to think and act appropriately. But the same goes for staying mute, which is a decision and an act and a rhetorical strategy with consequences, not all of which are desirable or acceptable.

Perhaps I fall into the group of progressives that are entitled to criticize because I make no money in politics or blogging and, by definition, cannot be a part of the professional left? I fail to see why making money as a progressive strips one of the right to express political viewpoints.

Did they get you to trade your heroes for ghosts? Hot ashes for trees? Hot air for a cool breeze? And cold comfort for change?


This is the political and media establishment (who are doing AOK for themselves) (4.00 / 6)
and primarily motivated by the desire to protect their own hard-earned power and privilege, lashing out at outsiders who they believe threaten their power and privilege, who for some truly bizarre reason aren't 100% satisfied with the policy and political status quo and are trying to change that, by, in part, criticizing those who are in a position to do just that, but reasons largely of self-interest choose not to. Gibbs is literally attacking the very Jeffersonian Democracy in action that his boss keeps praising in theory.

This is an insider attacking outsiders, pure and simple. Nothing to do with policy or politics. This is power and privilege protecting itself against outside threats, under the dishonest guise of "pragmatism", which to people like Gibbs is defined as "Whatever isn't risky to US".

"Those who stand for nothing fall for anything...Mankind are forever destined to be the dupes of bold & cunning imposture" -- Alexander Hamilton


Gee, Gibbs (4.00 / 3)
Now tell us what you really think.  And, btw, I'm not confused.  You may have said this all in your interview, but I'm sure your words aren't original.  Most likely is a view the whole administration shares.  You're making my future voting choices soooo much easier.

A serious proposal (4.00 / 1)
I propose the following, as a constructive way to respond to Gibbs' accusations:

Get prominent lefties (I'll let somebody else compile a list of who should be on the list) to independently write essays on the same topic, viz., about what they think Obama should do, going forward. Their essays about their ideal, future Obama need to recognize political realities, such as Congress having a mind (and corruption) of it's own, Republicans acting in bad faith, for purely partisan reasons, etc.

While I'm sure a lot of lefties would be ecstatic to have Obama-2011 and Obama 2012 act just like a Kucinich, I also think they'd be very happy for considerably less, as long as it was simultaneously for considerably more than they've seen Obama do, so far.

The essays could be collected at a common website, perhaps a new one constructed for this purpose. Or, maybe OpenLeft could extend the invitations for essayists, and then host all the answers.

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From this video, you can see that it's Gibbs' that needs a drug test (0.00 / 0)
Then again (0.00 / 0)
I guess only a stoner could write a song that is from the point of view of the Devil and/or Jesus and/or himself, but you can't tell which.

[ Parent ]
wow (4.00 / 3)
I am just way too stoned.  I smoked a few doobs and thought I pulled the lever for the guy who was mouthing the Cesar Chavez slogan.  Guess I'll go eat some Funyuns and shut the fuck up for a while.  What year is it, by the way?

Can we PLEASE sticky this? (4.00 / 1)
I know charts are important but I feel like this topic shouldn't go away

one more post and this is buried (0.00 / 0)
LUX HAS A PLAN TO GET BIG MONEY OMG

[ Parent ]
Yeah, I am a life-long Liberal! (4.00 / 2)
I haven't always seen eye-to-eye with Chris here (as I was a Hillary supporter), but I still gave what I could to the Democratic Party and did what I could for Obama's election.

In the past I raised money as a Young Democrat for John Kennedy. I worked for Vance Hartke and Birch Bayh when I lived in Indiana and worked my tail off for George McGovern's election in opposition to a different useless war. Later my activities were limited by the Hatch Act as I became a Federal employee. I am also an honorably discharged veteran of the Army; a retired member of the intelligence community; and a graduate of the U.S. Naval War College.

Having a WH Press Secretary worse than any in my memory (except Dana Perino) trash the party loyalists on the left who are heartbroken by the chain of broken promises Obama and company has left on the campaign trail and Presidency only adds to my reluctance to do anything further to support the party of Ben Nelson, Blanche Lincoln, and the other Blue Dogs whom Gibbs and his master choose to ignore.

Obama's difference-making and promised change have been sacrificed to sailing too close to the wind. I suggest that Gibbs and the whole Obama team look first to the logs in their eyes.


Don't understand Chris's rejection of the "caricature" (4.00 / 3)
After propounding on how the Left is increasingly disapproving of President Obama and how he shouldn't take the Left for granted, Chris then goes on to talk about how, oh never mind, the Left actually has a 84 percent approval rating and the Left vs. Obama meme is just some silly caricature, and it's annoying when people ask me to talk about what I don't like about Obama.

I'm sure no one needs me to repeat this, but I'll say it anyway: it's valuable to have Left vs. Obama stories out there, because 1.) The Left is genuinely pissed, and no we're not just being spoiled brats, and 2.) People need to know that there's a significant chunk of people to the left of Obama, that yes, there are actual socialists out there (not the "Obama kind" - Obama is as much a socialist as GWB was a good President), and that real liberals - again, not Obama - are out there and want something very different from the corporatist cuddling that we've gotten from the Obama administration.

In other news, 2 plus 2 equals 4.

But Chris does nail it with the next paragraph:

Secondly, and more sadly, reaching out to the left by hating on it has a long, established tradition in Democratic politics.  Many Democratic elected officials feel that reaching out to moderates and conservatives means bending over backward to show those voters that they share their views.  However, many of those same elected officials consider left-wing outreach to be telling progressives to shut the fuck up and get in line.  With outreach like that, it is probably no wonder that President Obama's main problem with his approval rating right now is among self-identified liberals.

Exactly, thank you!  I've noticed this for awhile, that there's a breed of centrist Democrat that enjoys bitch-slapping the Left around when they don't "get in line" with DLC/neoliberal principles and policies.  It's how they deal with us.  The proper response is to kick them right back in the ass.


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