- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 8, 2015

Republican, Democrat — and Maverick? We already know that Americans are weary of Congress, the White House, gridlock and government. Now that ire has inspired voter defections: The number of self-described ‘independents” is at a record high level says substantive new Gallup research. “An average 43 percent of Americans identified politically as independents in 2014,” says analyst Jeffrey M. Jones, who also reports the number is the highest since the pollster began tracking the phenomenon in 1988.

And the fate of donkey and elephant: 30 percent of the respondents are now Democrats, 26 percent are Republicans; the findings are based on 15 polls of 16,500 people conducted throughout 2014.

“Dissatisfaction with government has emerged as one of the most important problems facing the country, according to Americans. This is likely due to the partisan gridlock that has come from divided party control of the federal government. Trust in the government to handle problems more generally is the lowest Gallup has measured to date, and Americans’ favorable ratings of both parties are at or near historical lows,” Mr. Jones explains.

Political strategists should batten down the hatches and prepare for more defections, though.

“Given historical trends, 2015 could bring a new record, as the percentage identifying as independents typically increases in the year before a presidential election,” the analyst says.

NOT REALLY A MOLLUSK


SEE ALSO: Army Corps dumps $7M into defective Afghan plant


“It does pain me to be described as spineless or a squish. I tell you what pains me the most is when they describe me as the establishment. I’m the most anti-establishment speaker that we’ve ever had.”

— House Speaker John A. Boehner, Ohio Republican in a tell-all moment before reporters on Thursday.

EXECUTIVE AMNESTY GETS PUSHBACK

Momentum is building for Rep. Robert Aderholt’s “Repeal Executive Amnesty Act,” which the nimble Alabama Republican introduced shortly after he took his own oath of office on Tuesday, aiming to reverse President Obama’s executive amnesty proposal by defunding it, and removing the president’s discretion to grant work permits, Social Security and other federal benefits. The legislation also put limits on the Mr. Obama’s future ability to enact wide-reaching actions that circumvent the Constitution’s separation of powers. Mr. Aderholt has picked up the endorsement of another Alabama lawmaker.

Sen. Jeff Sessions points that Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus vowed the GOP would stop executive amnesty. “Legislation introduced by Congressman Aderholt would fulfill that pledge and accomplish that goal. It would block funds for the President’s illegal scheme; surely, Congress should not fund an illegal act that eliminates our constitutional role as a lawmaking body,” Mr. Sessions said, upon voicing his support. “Further, the Aderholt bill would take steps to address one of the most serious problems now unfolding: the mass release of illegal immigrants who show up at the border into the interior of the country.”

HERE COME THE ‘NON-BELIEF ADVOCATES’

The Secular Policy Institute — a new think tank promoting separation of church and state — is ready to rumble. The scholarly, global-minded organization plans to host congressional briefings in the U.S. Capitol and an annual conference, and will actively fund research and seek United Nations “observer status,” organizers say. Their mission statement: “Your non-belief advocate to the U.S. Congress and government world wide — this is what secularists look like. We call ourselves atheists, agnostics, humanists, or freethinkers. We come from all backgrounds, and we are just like other people, except that we don’t believe in God.” Find them here: SecularPolicyInstitute.net

“This has been a project in the making for quite some time. The reality is that secular projects encounter much more resistance than those that are faith-based. We finally have a strong infrastructure here, and we’re excited about our team, and the possibility of changing the game in Washington,” declares chairman and founder Steve Rade.

CYBERSECURITY, IN SUMMATION

“Taken all together, cyber poses an incredibly complex set of threats — because criminals, and hacktivist collectives like Anonymous, are all thrown in together with aggressors like North Korea and Iran, and with the Russians and Chinese, who could do real damage if they are so inclined. Each of those actors has different capabilities and different objectives when they engage in cyberspace, and all them of operate on the same Internet. It makes me long for the halcyon days of the Cold War, when the world essentially had two large, mutually exclusive communications networks. One belonged to the United States, dominated by the United States and our Allies, and the other was dominated by the Soviets and theirs. So we could be reasonably sure that if we were listening to someone on the Soviet network, that person was not a U.S. citizen.”

— Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, to the International Conference on Cyber Security at Fordham University on Wednesday.

IT’S CLINTON VS PALIN, 2016

Hey, this is as good a gauge as any: Hillary Rodham Clinton and Sarah Palin dominate the 2016 presidential field, this according to Cafe Press, the longtime purveyor of popular political swag. Clinton-themed merchandise is in the lead with 88 percent of the current sales, Palin-themed is in second place with 72 percent. But wait. “There is four times as much anti-Hillary Clinton merchandise as there is anti-Sarah Palin,” says spokesperson Sarah Segal, noting that Sen. Rand Paul and Mitt Romney rank a very distant third and fourth in the sales numbers.

“When it comes to the presidential campaign, our sales trends, sales of bumper stickers, t-shirts and other political products, have time and again been a clear indicator of who will be elected to the White House. How people design and spend their money on political gear is often a better indication than polls on how they will ultimately vote,” Ms. Segal assures Inside the Beltway. “It’s one thing to say you’ll vote a certain way, it’s a completely different thing to spend your hard earned money and turn yourself into a walking billboard.”

WEEKEND REAL ESTATE

For Sale: Bruce Willis‘ Sun Valley ski estate, built in 1984 on Flying Heart Lake in Hailey, Idaho. Six bedrooms, seven granite baths, 8,403 square feet, on 20 acres; multiple ponds and streams, heated outdoor balconies and terraces, custom pool with waterfalls. Massive foyer, sunken living room, custom floors and woodwork, three stone fireplaces, vaulted master suite, pool room, gourmet kitchen with glass cabinetry, gated entry and security systems, tennis court, mountain and lake views. Priced at $7 million through SothebysRealty.com, Multi-listing No. 11-311659.

POLL DU JOUR

55 percent of Americans say the U.S. is “off on the wrong track”; 78 percent of Republicans, 67 percent of independents and 28 percent of Democrats agree.

32 percent say the nation is “headed in the right direction”; 13 percent of Republicans, 23 percent of independents and 56 percent of Democrats agree.

45 percent overall feel optimistic about their family’s future in the next year; 39 percent of Republicans, 44 percent of independents and 58 percent of Democrats agree.

31 percent overall feel neither optimistic or pessimistic; 33 percent of Republicans, 32 percent of independents and 27 percent of Democrats agree.

24 percent feel pessimistic; 28 percent of Republicans, 34 percent of independents and 15 percent of Democrats agree.

Source: An Economist/YouGov poll of 997 U.S. adults conducted Jan. 3-5.

Cranky commentary and hearty outcry to jharper@washingtontimes.com.

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