Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Great Expectations and Our Disappointment


Who are you blaming for the current apparent dysfunction in American politics? Obama? Congress? The GOP? Dems?

According to Jacob Weisberg, editor in chief of the Slate Group, maybe the blame shouldn't be placed on the people inside the Beltway.
Could it be that we citizens share some blame...?

"In trying to explain why our political paralysis seems to have gotten so much worse over the past year, analysts have rounded up a plausible collection of reasons including: President Barack Obama's tactical missteps; the obstinacy of congressional Republicans; rising partisanship in Washington; the blustering idiocracy of the cable-news stations; and the Senate filibuster, which has devolved into a super-majority threshold for any important legislation."

"These are all large factors, to be sure, but that list neglects what may be the biggest culprit in our current predicament: the childishness, ignorance and growing incoherence of the public at large."

"Anybody who says you can't have it both ways clearly hasn't been spending much time reading polls lately. One year ago, 59 percent of the American public liked the stimulus plan, according to Gallup. A few months later, with the economy still deeply mired in recession, a majority of the same size said Obama was spending too much money on it."

"There's nothing wrong with changing your mind, of course, but polls over the last year reflect something altogether more troubling: a country that simultaneously demands and rejects action on unemployment, deficits, health care, climate change and a whole host of other major problems. Sixty percent of Americans want stricter regulations of financial institutions. But nearly the same proportion says we're suffering from too much regulation on business. That kind of illogic – or, if you prefer, susceptibility to rhetorical manipulation – is what locks the status quo in place."

There is no doubt that a great deal of poll pandering takes place in Washington. The facts are, there is a new poll coming out everyday. Enough to make one roll one's eyes when a pundit or news anchor say, "The majority of Americans say..."

I've certainly made reference to certain polls but admittedly any political leader who is seeking to chart the course of this country on how the 'majority' of the people feel, is helping to steer us toward a shipwreck. Such 'leadership' leaves us vulnerable to politicians who will tell us whatever we want to hear to get elected and stay in office. It happens on the left and on the right.
It makes us a poorer nation because of it.

A 21st century version of JFK's "Profiles in Courage" would be about as thick as "Who Moved My Cheese"!

Of course this isn't anything new. Read the op-ed and then read a couple of polls, any couple of polls and think about what Weisberg says:

"Our inability to address long-term challenges makes a strong case that the United States now faces an era of historic decline. Our reluctance to recognize economic choices also portends negative effects for the rest of the world. To change this story line, we need to stop blaming the rascals we elect to office and start looking to ourselves."

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

Admittedly, the American public, as reflected in these polls, does seem flaky, but look carefully at the sizes of these majorities. After taking into account a standard 3-4 percentage points of error, 59% could shrink to 55-56% (or grow to 62-63%). If you look at the differences - that's only 10 percentage points either way. This, to me, points more to the political divisions than to public illogic.

Consider, too, the nature of polling - asking a few questions on narrow topics providing little time for rumination or consideration of alternatives. Then there is the all-important concerns of how the questions were worded, how the sample was selected and what the non-response rates were.

I agree with your idea that polls should not be the principle driver of the course of this country. Of course, there is one poll that does drive this country - that taken in the voting booth.

One final note - JFK wrote Profiles in Courage in 1955. Perhaps you should wait until 2055 before condemning an entire century.

Gerald Britt said...

Anon 1217

You've pointed out the reasons why we have to view polls judiciously. I appreciate your insight. It's also important to understand that, at their best, polls are a snapshot of American opinion. Which is why politicians should beware of governing by them - and we should be wary of politicians who pander to polls.

As to JFK's book, I 55 years is long enough to have seen whether or not we've had significant examples of political courage - don't you?

Anonymous said...

The people are rejecting Obama's message. As just one example--global warming. There has not been significant warming in 15 years. This comes from Phil Jones, the big cheese of global warming himself. It's one of the biggest scams in world history. The people are rejecting the other issues as well.

Anonymous said...

the obstinacy of congressional Republicans "?- it doesn't matter if the Republicans have been obstinate, the Dems had a super majority in the Senate, and a clear majority in the House.; rising partisanship in Washington - by its very nature, politics is partisan. The only time I hear a plea for non partisanship, is when the Dems aren't having their way.

With regard to stimulus spending, consider the pork barrel spending by Dems, the positively irresponsible way that funds have been spent - no job creation, only cronyism (protecting only union jobs), and more social spending that in no way boosts the economy. There has been no effort to reduce unemployment, other than manipulate a few statistics. Talk of "green jobs", based on the global warming hoax has not done anything to create jobs. Obama has used the stimulus package to pay off his supporters, with disregard for the country as a whole. His only redeeming virtue - he can read a teleprompter smoothly. He was and is the wrong man for the job.

Gerald Britt said...

It's incredibly easy to forget that one year ago an entire ideology which had led to out of control spending, nearly zero job growth, wage stagnation, a war of choice, no-bid government contracts, 'cronyism' (remember 'Brownie')and political corruption and a economy that was nearly driven off a cliff, with a world-wide ripple effect was what the incoming President faced. The aforementioned maladies had been building for nearly a decade and had its source in fiscal policies that were older than that, reaching at some points all the way to the Reagan administration.

The fact that Obama hasn't been able to correct all of these issues in one year, are owed more to the deep hole dug by his predecessors.

We cling to the notion that global warming is a myth, not simply because of science, but because it would interfere with a free market system that contributes to it and a lifestyle that we have developed that is too convenient to think about giving up easily.

The green jobs of which Anon 10:52 speaks so derisively represent the new economy necessary to free our country from the tyranny and addiction to foreign oil and make ours a more healthy society for the future generations we care to rescue only when it comes to our national debt.

Again, the 'ideas' that have been 'presented' by the loyal obstructionists are the same old ideologies yelled louder. They are yelled louder in the hopes that the American people will simply come to believe that a few mistakes were made by a few greedy people and that if given another chance, the same thing will be done, only without subprime loans and derivitatives. Its a tactic that will only work if Americans forget history and fail to remember that those ideas have never worked. They have only resulted in increased wealth for the richest 2-3%, large deficits (such as those inherited by Obama)a weakened middle class, deluded into believing that they will one day be a part of the 2-3% and a growing economic underclass.

And, by the way Anon 10:52, reading a teleprompter smoothly, is obviously a skill that not every President can master.

Anonymous said...

re: "And, by the way Anon 10:52, reading a teleprompter smoothly, is obviously a skill that not every President can master".

He does read the teleprompter well. The shame is he only has one other skill and its also reading- Carl Marx and Saul Alinsky.

Gerald Britt said...

It's 'Karl' Marx, and among those of us who appreciate intellect in our elected officials it's called being well read and considered a virtue...

Anonymous said...

It does come to mind that a man of your towering intellect would be well versed in Communism. Probably enough to call you a Marxist?