Two Futures

A big part of the problem with the ol’ “can’t we all just get along” nostalgia for the bipartisan of yore is encapsulated in this poll finding from NBC News/Wall Street Journal, as reported by Mark Murray:

When asked in the new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll which issue should be the top priority for the federal government to address, Republican primary voters’ leading response was national security and terrorism (27 percent said it was their first choice).

That’s followed by the deficit and government spending (24 percent), job creation and economic growth (21 percent) and religious and moral values (12 percent).

By comparison, the top priority for Democrats in the poll was job creation and economic growth (37 percent) — followed by health care (17 percent), climate change (15 percent) and national security and terrorism (13 percent).

When you don’t agree on the most important challenges facing the country, it is rather hard to agree on an agenda for dealing with them.

This may be helpful to Democrats, who all other things being equal would probably like 2016 to be a debate over “two futures,” not primarily a retrospective referendum on the Obama administration. If only one party is addressing the future in a way that addresses your chief concerns, your choice becomes rather clear. This is one of many factors that will likely build a floor under public support for both parties at around 45 or 46 percent, and will help dictate who has the advantage with the five to ten percent of voters that are actually persuadable, and the degree of internal consistency that will at the margins affect turnout.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.