Scott Rasmussen: Campaign 2010 is about rejecting the party in power, as it was in 2008, 2006. But that's not the end of it

Pollster Scott Rasmussen has a must-read oped in today's edition of The Wall Street Journal. It is crucial to understanding many things about the 2010 mid-term congressional election, but most especially the difference between mere populism and the desire for self-government.

Lots of commentators across the political spectrum view the Tea Party movement in a populist frame of reference, which is to say fundamentally as a reaction against rather than a vote for something else. Consider this passage from Rasmussen's oped today in which he concedes that Republicans will win big, but puts that reality into proper context:

“But none of this means that Republicans are winning. The reality is that voters in 2010 are doing the same thing they did in 2006 and 2008: They are voting against the party in power.

“This is the continuation of a trend that began nearly 20 years ago. In 1992, Bill Clinton was elected president and his party had control of Congress. Before he left office, his party lost control. Then, in 2000, George W. Bush came to power, and his party controlled Congress. But like Mr. Clinton before him, Mr. Bush saw his party lose control.

“That's never happened before in back-to-back administrations. The Obama administration appears poised to make it three in a row. This reflects a fundamental rejection of both political parties.

“More precisely, it is a rejection of a bipartisan political elite that's lost touch with the people they are supposed to serve. Based on our polling, 51% now see Democrats as the party of big government and nearly as many see Republicans as the party of big business. That leaves no party left to represent the American people.”

But Americans are not simply saying no to Big Government Democrats and Big Business Republicans; they are saying yes to the American tradition of self-government, or as Rasmussen puts it: “voters don't want to be governed from the left, the right, or even the center. They want someone in Washington who understands that the American people want to govern themselves.”

Americans don't need Washington politicians or bureaucrats to tell them how to live their lives, they already know how they choose to do that. 

Go here for the rest of Rasmussen's oped and here for his essential-reading book, co-authored with Democratic pollster Doug Schoen.

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