Politics Special Hot Docs: Bush’s “Overwhelmingly Negative” Legacy, Shifting Political Tides

Today's selection of timely reports

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"Overwhelmingly Negative Legacy" for the Bush Presidency: As the Bush administration enters its last weeks, the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press asked Americans how he's done—and their responses are "overwhelmingly negative." Over the years, Pew's polls have tracked the president's decreasing popularity since the days after 9/11. His approval rating now stands at 24 percent. Eleven percent of respondents think Bush will be remembered as an "outstanding" or "above average" president— "by far the lowest positive end-of-term rating for any of the past four presidents." The Pew researchers conclude that Bush's legacy has been damaged by "his administration's mixed record of competent governance" in responding to challenges like the Iraq war and Hurricane Katrina. While a majority of respondents still give Bush credit on some issues, such as preventing another terrorist attack from occurring in America, overall "the government 'brand' deteriorated badly during the Bush years" both domestically and overseas.

Shifting Political Tides: The Republican Party's losses in the 2008 elections could mark the beginning of a "fundamental change in partisan loyalties that could reshape American politics for a generation," write analysts from the conservative Hoover Institution. In the latest issue of Policy Review, "The 2008 Democratic Shift" notes the rapid change in the parties' balance of power since 2004. In the authors' estimation, the reasons for the change go deeper than the current unpopularity of President Bush and the Iraq war. Conservative social positions on issues like abortion and gay marriage are "repelling moderates the party needs to maintain its long-term competitiveness," it finds. Poll data show that many who voted Democratic this year actually agree with Republicans on other issues and that "the Republican Party doesn't have to move too far to recapture these voters." Despite this, the Republican base has shifted further to the right, "an unpromising strategy for a conservative party that needs to widen its appeal." The scholars conclude that the Republicans' insistence on "purity on social issues" will continue to alienate the party from moderate voters and has left them "set up for a long, dry run."