The latest Gallup Poll on ideological identification among Americans is out, and the results are edifying.
“Conservatives continue to outnumber moderates and liberals in the American populace in 2009, confirming a finding that Gallup first noted in June,” the Princeton, N.J.-based polling firm reported. “Forty percent of Americans describe their political views as conservative, 36% as moderate, and 20% as liberal. This marks a shift from 2005 through 2008, when moderates were tied with conservatives as the most prevalent group.”
The key group, independents, registered a significant shift to the right, Gallup found, accounting for the increase in the number of Americans who view themselves as conservative. Here’s the nut graph:
“Changes among political independents appear to be the main reason the percentage of conservatives has increased nationally over the past year: the 35% of independents describing their views as conservative in 2009 is up from 29% in 2008.”
Alarm and anger
The poll offers evidence of what many people have known empirically for a long time: Americans increasingly are alarmed by, among other things, runaway federal spending, the increasing corruption and vulgarity of civil society, and the swelling of the federal bureaucracy (public-employee unions are one of the very few growth industries in the country today).
And if other polling data are accurate, the Democratic Party is about to get a very unpleasant tutorial on the anger of independent and moderate Democratic voters when results from the gubernatorial races in Virginia and New Jersey come in next month. Stay tuned.
There was no breakdown of the polling data by states, but it is probably safe to assume that conservative principles and values are enjoying renewed popularity in Minnesota, too.
I had an opportunity to see that firsthand a few weeks ago, when I helped moderate a discussion among the nine GOP candidates for governor, including (in alphabetical order) Pat Anderson, Leslie Davis, Rep. Tom Emmer, Bill Haas, Sen.Dave Hann, Phil Herwig, Sen. Mike Jungbauer, Rep. Paul Kohls and Rep. Marty Seifert.
The venue was the Bethesda Church in Prior Lake, which hosted the event sponsored by the 2nd Congressional District (Carver, Dakota, Goodhue, Le Sueur, Rice and Scott counties) GOP. A large group of people showed up to hear what the candidates had to say, and they said a lot.
If there was one central theme among the candidates’ remarks, it was a devotion to the conservative principles that traditionally are the hallmark of the Republican Party: limited government, an aversion to higher taxes, zero-based budgeting, ending deficit spending, reforming Minnesota’s regulatory environment, improving education and strengthening family values.
That last item is notoriously vague and, moreover, can mean different things to different people. But Seifert was eloquent in bringing the definition home. “Family values are the core beliefs that hold up the nuclear family as the essential moral and ethical unit of society,” he said. There was unanimity among all the candidates that those values have been under attack for a long time, but none offered any specific plans to counteract the trend.
Seifert, by the way, so far is the front-runner in the race. At the state GOP convention Oct. 3 in St. Paul, he finished first in a straw poll with 454 votes, followed by Emmer (238), Anderson (174), Hann (146), Kohls (58), Herwig (14) and Jungbauer (10). Haas and Davis tied for the final spot with 10 votes apiece.
Comments of note
I admit to being a newcomer to local politics, and I am not nearly as conversant about the players and issues as some of my colleagues here at MinnPost, but I was struck by a number of things the candidates said.
Emmer, for one, lamented the rap that Republican candidates are “too conservative and haven’t been true to the party’s principles,” a remark that found resonance among the others.
Davis zeroed in on judicial reform, which long has been one of his key issues. He was adamant, too, that the state and nation “cannot take on more debt to get out of debt.”
Haas argued persuasively for zero-based budgeting in state government, and Jungbauer insisted on the merits of a “flat tax” to invigorate the economy and relieve the burden on state taxpayers.
“I read every bill that crosses my desk [in the Senate],” Jungbauer said, specifically citing measures on transportation, public safety and education. Would that members of Congress were equally as diligent.
Herwig struck a chord with the audience by attacking the “entitlement mentality” that is prevalent among many sectors of society. “It will be the death knell of our country” if it is not brought under control, he said.
Hann wants to reintroduce the “competitive dynamic” to education and health care in the state, and Anderson takes her cue from Ronald Reagan and sees “family, limited government, deficit spending” as issues that will galvanize voters across the state.
Each of these candidates brings unique credentials and qualifications to the GOP gubernatorial race. But if there is one other thing they bring to the table, it is a dedication to the conservative principles and values that in the past have provided a welcoming home to independents and moderate Democrats, alienated by the Democratic Party’s periodic lurch to the far left.
As the Gallup Poll suggests, these candidates definitely are on the right track.