Another poll, another set of results that are seemingly at odds with one another. Take a look at some of the stats:
46% approved of Bush’s performance in office (an all time low for his presidency)
44% said the war was worthwhile
54% said the invasion of Iraq was a mistake
41% indicated that they think Bush is doing a good job handling the war
37% are satisfied with the way things are going in the US (103% were satisfied with the way things are going in the US when compared to the way things were going in Abu Graib)
One would naturally assume that these are the numbers of a president on his way out the door. After all, the Bush candidacy is Iraq and Iraq is the Bush candidacy. Yet, Bush remains in a statistical dead-heat with John Kerry and he comes out a winner in a three way race that includes Ralph Nader (By the way, we’re keeping a list of all of you who plan to take time off from work, drive to your polling place and then offer a protest vote for Nader. Without getting too specific, beware of Pintos driving in reverse).
So what gives? How can voters continue to become increasingly dissatisfied with the Bush performance, but also still think it makes sense to vote for him? There are probably three key reasons. Two of them I mention here on a regular basis. The third one isn’t mentioned enough anywhere in the media.
First, the partisan split in this country is extreme and people’s basic voting patterns will not be shifted by something as insignificant as job performance, elective wars, misleading statements, or wanton mismanagement. People would be more likely to vote O.J. into the Oval Office than to vote for someone from the opposing party. Second, John Kerry hasn’t made enough noise yet. That’s partially his fault and partially the facts on the ground in this campaign. It’s tough to grab the headlines when you’re competing with naked human pyramids.
The third reason? Jesus.
There is a huge population of evangelicals in this country that will vote for President Bush because he is one of them. Because he reads the Bible every morning, not the newspaper (well, maybe the sports section). Because Jesus is his favorite political philosopher. Because he believes that religion should be central to political life, not pushed to the margins. Because he has broken the world down into good and evil. Because he has diverted money to faith-based (translation, Christian – check the numbers) programs. Because he appoints judges who believe that the Bible is first and the Constitution is second. Because he stands up against abortion and gay marriage. Because he believes only those who have been reborn can truly understand what he knows and will walk with him on the path of everlasting salvation. Because he has no doubts about the war or anything else because God wanted him in the White House during these trying times. Bush’s performance numbers could drop below zero (something they’ve pretty much done in the blue states) and it wouldn’t shake the voting patterns of this block. These voters (and there are millions and millions of them and they are extremely well organized) are about as likely to vote W out of the White House as they are to vote Jesus out of the Church.
If you haven’t seen it yet, you can watch the entire episode of Frontline: The Jesus Factor online. It’s impossible to understand W’s presidency without understanding this angle.