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Six Months Since the Coup and Bush is Still Illegitimate

By Steve Cobble

The media have rightly made a big deal this week out of the large protests that have greeted George W. Bush in Spain and Sweden. What goes largely unreported, however, are the protests back home, beginning with the massive demonstrations on Inauguration Day, and continuing ever since. Activists are still angry that the loser of the popular vote was fraudulently installed in office.

Also largely unreported are the polling results that show that Bush is still not regarded as a legitimate president. It is now six months since the Scalia 5's December 12th judicial coup, and Americans are still not fooled. Despite the best efforts of the national media to ignore and obscure the data; despite the prodigious propaganda spewing forth from Fox, Reilly, Limbaugh, even Matthews (Tip O'Neill must be squirming!); and despite the focus on nicknames, tee-ball, and the Shrub as just another humble, compassionate, back-slapping, bipartisan Joe ex-six-pack, the truth is that the American people have never fully embraced either the President-Select or his installation in office by hook or by crook.

#1: The newest Zogby Poll reports that only 29% of the voters believe that Bush deserves re-election.

This is a remarkably pathetic number. This number is called the "re-elect," and is one of the important baseline figures that political operatives keep track of. Anything below 50% is regarded as a major danger sign; below 40% is awful; and below 30% is usually a sign that a candidate's advisers better update their resumes.

The Zogby Poll, one of the few polls to correctly call Bush's popular vote loss, surveyed 1,007 likely voters between 6/8-11, with a margin of error (MOE) of 3.2%.

Only 29% said Bush deserved re-election (including a mere 12% of Democrats, 23% of Independents, 17% of moderates, 12% of African Americans, 25% of Latinos, and 24% of women).

38% of likely voters said they would choose someone else! This includes 61% of Democrats, 39% of Independents, 44% of moderates, even 19% of conservatives, 41% of women, 38% of Latinos, and 59% of African Americans.

33% of Americans were not sure.

#2: The Republicans continue to argue that Paul Wellstone, Minnesota's progressive Senator, is very vulnerable. And what is Senator Wellstone's re-elect number? 46%, according to a Mason/Dixon poll from February.

Wellstone, 46% re-elect. Bush, 29% re-elect. You make the call.

#3: A Yankelovich Partners poll for CNN/Time three weeks ago asked the same kind of question slightly differently. On 5/23-24, Yankelovich asked 1,031 adults (3.1% MOE): "If George W. Bush runs for re-election, how likely are you to vote for him: very likely, somewhat likely, somewhat unlikely, or very unlikely?"

The result—half said unlikely, and over 4/5 of those were very unlikely!

[Very unlikely—42%; somewhat unlikely—8% (for a total of 50%!); somewhat likely—17%; very likely—26% (only 43%).]

#4: On 5/10, CNN.com had the following headline—"Honeymoon's over: Bush's approval rating drops."

A CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll discovered that "Bush's job approval stands at 53%, compared to 62% last month…Bush's decline was high among independents, suburbanites, and parents—all groups that have grown significantly more worried about energy…and his approval rating suffered most among 18-to-29-year-olds, who are notably less concerned about energy."

#5: The truth is, a remarkably large segment of the American public has never been impressed with the President-Select. In April, the Washington Post and ABC published its "100 days" poll of 1,350 adults (MOE 3%), which asked the question: "Do you consider Bush to have been legitimately elected as president, or not?" 36% said no.

Thus, months after Bush was installed in office by Scalia and his Court cronies, more than one-third of the public still regarded him as illegitimate!

[There is an interesting aspect to this legitimacy question. Prior to the judicial coup last December 12th, the question was posed: "If this ends with Bush winning the presidency, will you consider him to have been legitimately elected as president, or not?" As late as December 10th, two days before the Court coup, only 27% chose "no" as their answer; this figure immediately shot up to 42% in the wake of the Scalia 5's decision, demonstrating the public's astute conclusion that the Court's decision was bogus. And 4 months later, despite all the propaganda and propping up that the media conservatives have engaged in, that number was still up at 36%.]

The "100 Days" poll also showed that 60% of the public believed that Bush does not have a mandate to carry out his agenda, so he should compromise with the Democrats (and this was taken a month before Jim Jeffords left the GOP!). In addition, the poll showed major danger signs for the President-Select—these are also known as "windows of opportunity" for progressives:

*60% believed Bush cares more about protecting the interests of large business corporations, over ordinary working people (only 28%).

*53% believed the Bush tax cut would mainly benefit upper income people, while only 28% believed it would benefit all people about equally.

*78% thought that encouraging economic growth is more important to Bush than protecting the environment (only 13%!).

*76% thought that finding new sources of oil and natural gas is more important to Bush than protecting the environment (only 16%).

#6: Actually, Bush had already dropped below 50% job approval after only 2 months on the job. In previous administrations, dropping below 50% job approval would be a devastating development, but in Bush's case it has been obscured by lack of reporting, followed by the Chinese plane incident, which gave him an artificial boost in the polls (nothing like a quick foreign crisis to boost your ratings a bit, as Grenada, Libya, and the Sudan can testify).

Doubtless the fluff reporting over the President-Select's trip to Europe will give him another temporary boost. The fact remains that Americans have not yet been sold on the idea that Bush is up to the job, and if the economy slows down, there is only GOP partisan loyalty between him and a free-fall in the polls.

The 1,011 adults surveyed by this late March Harris Poll (MOE 3%) gave Bush a mere 49% positive, 38% negative rating on his job as president. Women gave Bush a 43% negative rating; African Americans, 66% negative; Latinos, 40% negative; Democrats, 61% negative; Independents, 40% negative; even moderates were 42% negative; and Whites, his core support group, were over 1/3 negative.

#7: The media have gone far out of their way to prop up Bush. When the Hotline (the daily fix for Beltway political junkies) reported the Harris poll mentioned above, the headline was not "Bush job approval drops below 50%!"; instead, it was "45% Say Bush Is Doing Better than Expected" (an interesting, not-very-reassuring headline in its own right). In its defense, however, at least the Hotline reported the Harris poll.

Another example: in late March, the Hotline ran the following headline, as if this was a good finding for the President-Select: "Florida: 63% See Bush in WH as 'Entirely' Legit." Less than 2/3 of Floridians regarding you as legitimate is not normally regarded as a great showing…

The same poll gave only a 50% job approval rating to the U.S. Supreme Court, a very low rating for that institution.

#8: The web site www.democrats.com recently summarized a June Fox News poll, the first one they had seen that asked how people felt about events in Florida last year. The question asked was: "When you think about how the votes for president were counted in Florida this past year, would you say you are more angry, or more satisfied?"

58% are more angry (still!). This includes 81% of Democrats (4/5!), 58% of Independents (almost 3/5!), and even 36% of Republicans (over 1/3!).

In contrast, only 28% were more satisfied.

#9: A 6/13-17 survey of 1,200 adults conducted by Princeton Survey Research for Pew (3% MOE) concluded that Bush's job approval was down to 50%. This was a drop of 3% in one month in their poll, and 6% in the last two months.

#10: Finally, Democracy Corps just released a poll of 1,000 likely voters conducted 6/11-13 by Greenberg/Quinlan/Rosner (3% MOE). This poll asked how well a series of phrases described Bush. One of the phrases these likely voters were given was "not really elected president."

25% of likely voters say the phrase "not really elected president" describes Bush "very well." Another 15% say it describes him "well."

Thus, six months after the judicial coup, 40% of likely voters still believe that Bush was not really elected president.

To sum up: Americans were mad at the way Bush was installed by the Scalia 5 last December; and they're still mad 6 months later. A significant portion of the voters has not accepted the President-Select as legitimate, does not believe that he has a mandate for his most conservative policies, does not think that he has been doing a very good job in office, and would not vote to re-elect him today. Just imagine what bad shape he would be in if any serious news outlets were actually reporting this widespread dissatisfaction….