Scott Rasmussen is a pollster and nationally syndicated columnist
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When the South lost the Civil War, new opposition arose to the nation's founding ideals. Progressives of the late 19th and early 20th centuries were OK with the idea of equality, but they hated the idea of individual rights that limited the power of government. Sounding a lot like Calhoun, President Woodrow Wilson complained that the American people had never gotten over the Declaration. Both the segregationists and the progressives saw the Declaration of Independence as an impediment to their plans.
It is time for the pundits to get a grip and realize that the election for president is not about the candidates lusting for the job. It's not about campaign strategies, speeches, gotcha journalism and gaffes. It is about the fundamentals and the state of the nation.
The idea of rule by a wise philosopher-king goes back at least 2,500 years to the writing of Plato. However, the self-serving interpretation of that ideal by today's political elites is not at all what Plato had in mind. Spock would never agree to lead such a self-serving elite.
Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker has emerged as a serious contender for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination. In response, the Washington Post researched and published a lengthy article on the "mystery" of why Walker dropped out of college.
The decision to attack Walker for failing to graduate tells us more about the worldview of the Washington Post and the political class than it does about the Wisconsin Governor.
For decades, American presidents urged the American people to reduce our reliance on foreign oil imports by conserving energy. Nothing worked.
In defiance of the prevailing political wisdom, individual Americans insisted that the answer was not cutting back on the use of energy but finding new sources of energy. When politicians tried to force people into smaller and more fuel-efficient cars, the gas-hogging SUV emerged as a vehicle of choice for millions.
It's been a year and a half since Edward Snowden revealed to the world just how much private information the National Security Agency has been collecting on just about everyone. The massive spying operation raised privacy and Constitutional concerns and set off alarms with reports that some employees had used the system to keep tabs on their love interests.
President Obama's health care law is the gift that keeps on giving to the GOP. While the nation's chief executive won't be on the ballot in 2016, his disastrous federal health care overhaul will still be helping the GOP.
Following the Hobby Lobby Supreme Court decision, one of the key talking points that emerged from enraged opponents of the ruling was: "My boss shouldn't be involved in my health care decisions." California State Senate candidate Sandra Fluke says on her official website that such a perspective is "common sense."
An Ohio Democrat is introducing a "Not My Boss's Business Act" in the state legislature. Like Fluke, she is tapping into a deeply held American belief that we should be able to make important decisions like health care choices on our own.
The economic data that drives so much political debate is becoming increasingly less reliable in the digital era. That's because new technology makes it hard to compare the 21st-century economy to anything that came before it.
How, for example, do you compare the living standards of a middle-income American in the 1970s with a middle-income American today? The 1970s version had no cellphone, no Internet, no digital camera and was limited to watching one of three television networks. That sounds primitive by today's standards.
The political community is abuzz about the growing possibility that Republicans might win control of the Senate this November. But little attention has been paid to a larger and more significant trend.
Like former Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, President Barack Obama saw his party lose control of Congress during his time in the White House. Never before in American history have three presidents in a row received such a rebuke from the voters. This is a fundamental rejection of both political parties.
From its inception, everything about President Barack Obama's health care law has been controversial.
The latest controversy came with the government release of new numbers. Through February, 4.2 million Americans had signed up for health insurance on the government exchanges. Supporters believe that while the numbers are lower than they'd hoped, the problem was simply a poor website rollout.
The big story about the federal budget this week was the Republican Party's struggle to deal with raising the debt ceiling. Last year's big budget story was President Barack Obama and the Democrats coming to grips with the so-called sequester, a policy gimmick that modestly slowed the growth of federal spending.
Neither of these storylines came anywhere close to dealing with reality. The two teams of Washington insiders get hung up on these side issues because they're better at symbolism than substance.
The conventional wisdom in Washington was succinctly expressed in a recent Washington Post article, "The GOP's Uphill Path to 270 in 2016." The Electoral College, claims Dan Balz, now gives the Democrats a decided advantage that will be hard for the GOP to overcome. He correctly noted that many formerly Republican-leaning states have shifted to the Democratic column.
On one level, Balz is correct. There has been a massive shift in the state-by-state leanings over the past two decades. From 1968 to 1988, the Republican candidate carried an amazing 34 states five or more times. During that stretch, only Minnesota and Washington, D.C. were equally secure for the Democrats.
Entering the world of official Washington is a bit like the mythical trip Alice took through the looking glass. Everything is upside-down and nonsensical.
This was highlighted most recently in a Wall Street Journal article about how the American people have "a deepening distaste for all Washington institutions" and "angst over Washington dysfunction."
Americans are pragmatic, not ideological.
That simple fact explains the growth of federal power following World War II. It also explains why President Obama's health care law will spur a reversal of that trend.
The growth in federal power got started in the New Deal era, but the decisive event took place on the morning of Dec. 7, 1941.
Washington's political class fundamentally misunderstands the role of politics and government in American society. They act as if government is the central force in American life and that its decisions guide the course of the nation. In historical reality, societal trends embrace new technology and the deep currents of public opinion lead the way. Government follows along a decade or two behind.
A quick review of our nation's history shows that the first 200 years were characterized by changing technology and expectations moving us to a more centralized nation.
The political stalemate leading to the so-called shutdown of the federal government has shown with devastating clarity how official Washington is consumed with symbolism over substance.
The symbolism begins with the word shutdown itself. Despite the noise and fury in Washington, the vast majority of Americans haven't noticed any change in their daily lives because most of the federal government has not shut down. It is functioning as normal. Social Security checks go out, and the military is still on duty.
2013 has been a tough year for the political class.
The most recent evidence comes from Colorado.
Earlier in the year, the political elites in Washington were certain gun control would be enacted following the horrific massacre at a Connecticut elementary school. When nothing passed, they expected politicians who refused to support more gun restrictions would face consequences for their actions.
It's no secret that both political parties are struggling to connect with voters. Strategists dream up marketing plans to increase their party's appeal to this constituency or that group. Sometimes they work, and sometimes they don't. But they never establish a deep and lasting connection with voters.
That's because most of what the parties talk about is yesterday's news and is largely irrelevant to the realities of the 21st century.
On Dec. 1, 1955, a churchgoing woman of character refused to give up her seat on a bus in Montgomery, Ala. Many credit Rosa Parks' courageous action that day with launching the civil rights movement. While I have great respect for what Ms. Parks did that day, however, she did not start the civil rights movement. The movement began long before, and public opinion led the way.
Rosa Parks' role was to serve as a catalyst converting the shifting public opinion into meaningful action. Martin Luther King Jr. then gave voice to that movement and made it an essential part of our national heritage.