For most of the past week Kris and I, along with scores of other states’ Delegates, Representatives, Senators, Assemblypersons, and Nebraska Unicams or whatever they call themselves, attended the annual meeting of the National Conference of State Legislatures. NCSL is a valuable bipartisan forum for legislators to share their states’ experiences and solutions in workshops and other presentations. Every year’s meeting has given me ideas for possible legislation in health care, technology and privacy, and other policy areas.
The meetings’ business sessions also feature great speakers. On Friday morning, we heard from the “Duelling Pollsters,” Democrat Peter Hart and Republican Frank Luntz, on the current political environment and their predictions for the upcoming elections. Hart cited a raft of statistics that point toward major Democratic gains on November 7: massive discontent with the country’s direction, a Republican president whose approval rating has languished under 40% for a year now, a record margin of voters who intend to vote Democratic for Congress. Surprisingly, Luntz said virtually nothing to refute Hart. “How many of you are Republicans?” he asked the audience. His advice to those who raised their hands: “Go home. Go home now. Go home and get another job — wait: you’re going to be looking for another job pretty soon anyway.”
One subtext of Luntz’s remarks was his neo-populist denunciation of corporate abuses, from Wal-Mart’s employee health care policies to CEOs’ super-sized pension packages. What made it interesting is this: in 1994, Luntz was the man behind the polling, messaging, and wordsmithing for the ingenious Republican Contract with America that contributed mightily to that year’s Republican takeover of Congress and their dominance of the national policy agenda for the past dozen years. So, more than any other person in that room, Luntz fairly could be said to be responsible for the conditions he was denouncing so passionately. Funny, life.