Here we go again with the poll numbers. Democrats are taking comfort in the public's disagreement with Republican intervention in the Schiavo case. But as usual we Democrats are determined not to learn any of the political lessons we have been taught.
Republicans are dead wrong on this issue. Of course. And a clear majority believes that they are. But, it does not translate into political capital. Why? Because people also respect Republicans for standing on this principle. Sure, in a poll people will claim it is all about politics. But when was the last poll in which a cross-section of Americans did not take the opportunity to question the motives of Washington politicians? Americans like to say that Washington does everything for political gain. Public cynicism is the new black. But deep in the American psyche, people want to have a protector in charge. The fact that Republicans go too far in that role only enhances their status as ultimate protector, even if there are surface disagreements over details.
I'm not saying that we should adopt the Republican stance. They're completely wrong and disgustingly inhumane here. I am saying that any idea that this is a political winner for Democrats, just because a poll says the public disagrees with Republicans, is a misguided one. So long as the Republicans are perceived as standing on principle, and protecting the helpless, they will hold the trust of the American people, even if the majority disagrees with them in their application.
Republicans (must) know this. Democrats would do well to learn. And as usual when I'm feeling pessimistic, I hope I'm wrong.