GEORGE BUSH AND HIS SUPPORTERS….The good folks at PIPA have yet another interesting report out. The primary gist of the report is that when it comes to foreign policy, Bush supporters have a much worse grasp of factual matters than Kerry supporters. It’s worth reading, and yes, it’s sort of scary, but I have a sneaking hunch that exactly the opposite might be true on some domestic issues. So I’m going to leave that alone for now.

Instead, take a look at this table that deals not with factual matters, but with whether Bush and Kerry supporters even understand their own candidate’s positions:

That’s pretty remarkable. There are only two issues on which even a majority of Bush supporters know Bush’s actual position. As the PIPA report blandly puts it, “Apparently in the absence of evidence to the contrary, Bush supporters assume Bush feels as they do.”

That’s true, and it’s been the essence of George Bush since 2000. He won the primary and the election that year by being the friendly face of movement conservatism, a guy who seemed much more moderate than he really was. And now, even four years later, he still looks to his supporters much more moderate than he really is. If the electorate understood just how conservative Bush really is, he wouldn’t have a snowball’s chance of winning the election this year.

What’s more, this goes beyond George Bush: it’s actually one of conservatism’s greatest weaknesses. On a wide range of issues ? the environment, Social Security, Medicare, abortion, and so forth ? conservatives are unable to get support for their actual positions, so they’re forced to couch their conservative policies in surprisingly liberal terms. We’re environmentalists! We want to save Social Security! We’re tolerant of gays!

In the long term, though, this is disastrous, since eventually they’ll either have to surrender and adopt genuine liberal policies or else come clean about their conservatism and get swamped at the polls.

But that’s for the future. In the meantime, the compassionate conservative schtick is working pretty well. I wonder how much longer they can pull it off?

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