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February 17, 2010

Signs and Portents

The art of political divination never fails to amuse me. Isn't it funny how when Bush was president, declining approval ratings were a "sign" that Bush was leading the country down the primrose path to a stern finger wagging from countries like France and Germany? Of course now that trust in Obama is declining both at home and abroad, it can't possibly have anything to do with his policies. There must be some other mysterious force at work.

Somewhere between January of 2008 and January of 2009, America suddenly became ungovernable!

The smarter elements in Washington DC are starting to pick up on the fact that it’s not tactical errors on the part of the president that make it hard to get things done, it’s the fact that the country has become ungovernable.

No, wait! The real problem is gridlock!

When the GOP lost control of the House and Senate, the annual budget deficit was $161 billion. President Obama's budget for next year --with no stimulus and no TARP-- calls for $1.6 trillion in red ink.

Thus in three years of democratic control the deficit has swell from 161 billion to 1,600 billion.

That's the opposite of gridlock --that is one party rule by the party of massive spending and unlimited pork.

OK, so that's not it either. Lets blame fear and racism:

Times are tough, the future is confusing, the threat from those who would dismantle our way of life is real (as if we weren't to some extent doing it for them). And the president is black. But you can't come out and say that's why you are scared.

Just as an aside: For a bunch of folks who produce a new study approximately every 24 seconds that "proves" conservatives are fearful, progressives sure do seem to spend an awful lot of time complaining about feeling afraid. But that's a topic for another post - back to our regularly scheduled excuse-fest.

Confused by all these conflicting excuses? Fear not - Andrew Sullivan has discovered the real reason trust in government is eroding and it's not Obama's poor performance racism, fear, or stubborn, bitter gun clingers (or at least it's not any of those things today). It's... [ding! ding! ding!]... the economy, stupid!

John Sides blames the economy for Americans not trusting the government and produces the above graph. Drezner has a theory why this is under-reported:

I suspect it gets less attention because its a structural factor that is largely beyond the control of politicians. It's also boring. It's like a diet guru simply saying "eat less and exercise more" when asked what the trendy explanation is for how to lose weight.

And because it would rob the media of their idiotic sports coverage of politics - which is actually an abdication of responsibility rather than professionalism.

Quick translation: when Bush was president, drawing attention to his declining approval ratings was a bold exercise in truth telling. Now that Obama is president, it's a frivolous distraction just plain bad manners.

I'm not sure I follow the reasoning here:

1.Prosperity (read higher disposable income) is the overriding factor influencing trust in government.

2. But the media don't talk about this because we already know politicians don't have much control over the economy.

3. Ergo, when the economy tanks we are blaming politicians for something we all instinctively realize government has little/no control over?

What's being ignored in all this Obama-exculpating "analysis" is that Obama has promised over and over again to do what we supposedly know politicians can't do: make government the new engine of American prosperity. If you were honestly expecting him to deliver, the results aren't exactly trust inspiring.

And if you never believed him in the first place...

Posted by Cassandra at February 17, 2010 01:08 PM

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Couldn't agree more. The only role I see the economy playing is that more people seem to be paying attention than usual, which I'm guessing is a result of both the stock market crash and the high unemployment rate. (Most people are going to notice one or the other.) A year ago it was awfully hard to get a lot of folks even to concentrate on what Congress was doing, let alone the difference between one candidate and another, but more are noticing now, and it's reflected in both the poll numbers and the level of activism.

Posted by: Texan99 at February 17, 2010 04:19 PM

My husband said "I never thought being governable was high on our list of priorities. The Germans were much more governable than we ever were."

My view is that this president is weak because he has lost the consent of the governed.

Posted by: valerie at February 17, 2010 06:22 PM

Ungovernable? That's not a bug, that's a feature.

Posted by: David Avera at February 17, 2010 08:00 PM

The less they "get done" in DC, the better for the rest of us, generally speaking. Now, if we could get them to legislate about things mandated by the Constitution ONLY, we'd be set...

Posted by: Miss Ladybug at February 17, 2010 10:45 PM

I would believe them more if they slaughtered a rooster and read the entrails.

Besides, 'it's the economy, stupid,' is so 90s.

Posted by: Cricket at February 18, 2010 10:53 AM

I can just see the ad in the Washington Post now "Wanted: Liver reader, Romans or Eutruscans preferred. Apply in person to . . ."

Posted by: LittleRed1 at February 18, 2010 01:59 PM