Zogby Poll Concludes Americans Still Haven’t Changed Mindset On Foreign Policy

Whether or not Americans were willing to give neoconservatism one last shot was not on a recent Zogby poll, but it might as well have been.  Tragically, despite the extraordinarily low approval ratings of President Bush, and the fact that a majority of Americans still oppose the continuing US occupation of Iraq, the message is clear; Americans may have soured on Bush, but they have not soured upon his driving ideological frame.

The question was obviously inspired by the now famous Hillary Clinton tv spot that asked voters who they wanted to answer a ringing phone at 3 am in the White House.  Zogby took the ad one step further and turned a rhetorical question into an actual question, and the answers were not particularly heartening.  By a wide margin, Americans want John McCain answering that phone.

To some small degree, I suppose this information could result from the contentious Democratic primary going on right now.  A lot of Democratic voters are passionately split up over the choice facing them this election season and without a unified party vote McCain will of course stand to reap the benefits.  This is worsened by the fact that Hillary Clinton has validated the Republican nominee over Obama in the realm of Commander in Chief which sends a uniquely strong message.  Showing respect for a member of the opposite party is one thing, saying they are qualified to do the job in a bitterly fought election is something completely different.

Between Hillary Clinton and Joe Lieberman, a few people have got to be scratching their heads and wondering why no Republicans are coming out and saying Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama are qualified to stand as Commander in Chief.

But what frightens me is that these factors are probably small, overshadowed by a far more saddening aspect of the American mentality; that Bush only turned people off to Bush, and not necessarily his policies.  People are opposed to Iraq, and are opposed specifically to how we got there and how it has been conducted, but choosing John McCain hints at the idea that a year or two down the line when we’re doing the same thing in a different country, Americans will be largely supportive.

I say this because what John McCain represents is essentially a smarter, perhaps more authentic Bush.  He isn’t prone to the verbal train wrecks the current president is known for, and has a well known history of distinguished military service not to exclude his time as a POW.  He’s also got a wicked temper that likes to surface every now and then.

Voting McCain into a position where he can answer the “red phone” at 3 am is essentially choosing someone who is easily pissed off and has a better than average understanding of the military.  Shorter: this is a guy who has a higher probability of putting America in more wars.

And apparently this is what Americans actually want.  They don’t want the cool-headed and even tempered Obama, nor the wonkish Hillary Clinton, they want the guy with the short fuse and a good working knowledge of the trigger he’s about to pull.

One may conclude that the question itself is disingenuous, a phone rings at 3 am, we don’t know who is on the other end nor why, but again, this is telling of the mindset of the people answering the question.  It would not be surprising in the least to me to find that a high majority of those who answered McCain are those who believe the call 3 am is a call to deliver orders to the military to go to war.  Fewer, I would wager, would believe that the call is more realistically a potential international crisis which requires nuance and prudence to prevent all out war as opposed to guarantee it.

Finally, one cannot forget the effect of Terror Management Theory that the original tv spot employs.  As I said when Clinton first deployed the ad, it was an intentional attempt to trigger TMT responses in the electorate, and that such a situation may actually backfire against Clinton.  The reason for this is because under TMT, people select leaders who reinforce their world view as opposed to those who may best be qualified to handle a given situation.

The problem for Clinton is that between herself, Obama, and McCain, the candidate who best reinforces the world view for Americans is neither Hillary or Obama, but instead John McCain; an ex-military white male as president.  We’ve had plenty of those.

In other words, the fact that so many more Americans want McCain answering that phone points to the idea that we’re still ready to push on with neoconservative Foreign Policy, and we’re still susceptible to the politics of fear.

One Response to “Zogby Poll Concludes Americans Still Haven’t Changed Mindset On Foreign Policy”

  1. Vote for McCain or the terrorists will eat your children!

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