Free Markets, Free People

It’s not just Obama

One of the things I’ve been saying for months is the Tea Party is not just a reaction to Obama and his agenda (although both he and his agenda have just continued to add to a decline in public trust and satisfaction in government). The Pew Research Center for the People and the Press published a chart that makes that point well:

The present slide, in both trust in government and satisfaction with the nation began in about 2003 – one would guess about the time of the invasion of Iraq. Note that at that time trust in government was at an all time high. But the erosion of that trust and satisfaction in the nation, began a pretty steep slide at that point. Note too that satisfaction with the nation (i.e. the nation headed in the right direction) took a brief turn upward with the election of Barack Obama but then swiftly turned south again. Presently both indicators at near all time lows.

Note as well that the last time the indicators were in the same area was 1994 when Democrats were power and after a precipitous decline from the Bush I administration that continued through the first two years of the Clinton administration.  Also consider that when the trust numbers again began to rise after ’94, the GOP was attempting to pass the Contract with America (aimed at some of the present Tea Party goals) and were ending “welfare as we know it”.

Some would argue that the political stars are aligning precisely as they did in ’94 which saw a resounding GOP victory. The situation, via the graph, certainly seems similar. But is it really? A couple of key paragraphs may disabuse one of that notion:

The public’s hostility toward government seems likely to be an important election issue favoring the Republicans this fall. However, the Democrats can take some solace in the fact that neither party can be confident that they have the advantage among such a disillusioned electorate. Favorable ratings for both major parties, as well as for Congress, have reached record lows while opposition to congressional incumbents, already approaching an all-time high, continues to climb.

The Tea Party movement, which has a small but fervent anti-government constituency, could be a wild card in this election. On one hand, its sympathizers are highly energized and inclined to vote Republican this fall. On the other, many Republicans and Republican-leaning independents say the Tea Party represents their point of view better than does the GOP.

This indicates the dissatisfaction isn’t necessarily partisan. That is the dissatisfaction with the state of the nation and the decline in public trust haven’t been driven exclusively by Obama and his agenda. As you can see, both indicators were in rapid decline well before Obama was a glint on the political horizon. What has happened is a over the past 10 or so years, the political culture within the country has begun to shift. More and more awareness of the impact, intrusion and cost of government has reached a broader audience. Our technology and connectedness has indeed had a political impact. And the numbers you see on the chart are partially a result of that.

So while Obama is the man in the hot seat at the moment, he isn’t the only reason for this general feeling of distrust and dissatisfaction. This has been brewing for some time – years in fact. It just reached a critical point – a “turn out in the streets” point – when TARP, bailouts, takeovers and trillion dollar deficits came so fast and furious that it could no longer be ignored or glossed over. Government is out of control, the Tea Party is simply a manifestation of the general dissatisfaction with government. Neither party is immune from the voters ire this November because they recognize both got the nation in this position. The only advantage the GOP holds is they are marginally recognized as the fiscally conservative/small government party (why, after the Bush years, is anyone ‘s guess). That’s why they hold a lead in most Congressional polling. But I wouldn’t call it a solid lead at this point. The Pew study makes it clear that many out there see the TP as what the GOP isn’t – truly committed to fiscal conservacy and small government. In other words, a significant portion of potential GOP voters don’t trust the GOP anymore than they do the Democrats although the GOP should be the party of choice for them (if one is to believe the principles they espouse).

The point – if the GOP wants to take and hold the reigns of power at a national level, they had better not only talk the talk (something they’re very good at) but also, once given the opportunity, walk the walk (something they are very poor at doing and the reason -although they don’t seem to understand it – they continue to get bounced out of power).


Rather than an activist government to deal with the nation’s top problems, the public now wants government reformed and growing numbers want its power curtailed. With the exception of greater regulation of major financial institutions, there is less of an appetite for government solutions to the nation’s problems – including more government control over the economy – than there was when Barack Obama first took office.

Figure it out boys and girls – here’s the ticket. Accept it, internalize it, run on it and then do it. If they don’t then the cycle you see above in the chart will only repeat.



Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on Google+Share on TumblrShare on StumbleUponShare on RedditPin on PinterestEmail this to someone

18 Responses to It’s not just Obama

  • The Tea Party is about the government being too big and spending too much.
    Like all those who have been wailing, screaming and gnashing their teeth over keeping “the government out of our bedrooms,” the Tea Party is about keeping the government off our property, out of our doctor’s office, every room in the house and most especially out of our checkbooks.

    • An excellent point, and one that is lost on the left and (to be honest) many on the right.  A limited government has a limited ability to interfere with or mandate people’s decisions regarding a host of things, such as health care, abortion, prayer in school, drugs, guns, and many other issues.

      • Excellent points about an excellent point! 🙂
        I wonder how many of the TP’s have been voting for years to put restrictions on their neighbors, voting for “Compassionate Conservatism”, and their own favorite gub’mint programs??
        So now they bitch about the intrusive state?
        “He that would make his own liberty secure,
        must guard even his enemy from oppression;
        for if he violates this duty, he establishes
        a precedent that will reach to himself.” — Thomas Paine
        It ain’t rocket science and it ain’t new!

        • I wonder how many of the TP’s have been voting for years to put restrictions on their neighbors, voting for “Compassionate Conservatism”, and their own favorite gub’mint programs??
          I would venture to guess – many of them.
          As this Politico article suggests, there are two dominant wings in this TP movement: the Sarah Palin wing, and the Rand Paul wing.
          The Rand Paul wing holds to traditional libertarian philosophy of universal limited government.  The Palin wing, unfortunately, merely wants the government out of their pocketbook, but also favors government promotion (read: intervention) into “traditional values.”
          This would help explain all of the signs I’ve seen at TPs all over the country that read “One Nation UNDER GOD!” and the like.  These signs represent the Palin wing…

          Palin, who topped the list with 15 percent, speaks for the 43 percent of those polled expressing the distinctly conservative view that government does too much, while also saying that it needs to promote traditional values.
          Palin fan Barbara Denton, a 63-year-old from Maryland’s Eastern Shore, said she has lots of free time to push her political agenda now that she’s retired.
          “I don’t want to hand my grandchildren a country that’s going in this direction,” she said, holding a large American flag. “We are a Christian country, and we need to remain that way. In case (Obama) doesn’t realize it, 86 percent of the population in this country says they believe in God. They’re not Muslim, and they’re not atheists. And he needs to figure it out.”

          Fortunately, however, the article does suggest that the main concern of the TP is over fiscal issues rather than cultural issues.
          Yet that doesn’t stop anyone and everyone to bring their own particular cup of tea to this party – sweetened with their favorite brand of government power.
          And I detest sweet tea.

    • It could be said that we want the same control over most all aspects of our lives that the SCOTUS has granted to pornography … local standards and control.

      • Local standards can be just as intrusive as Federal ones.
        What’s the adage about being tyrannized by one man 3,000 miles away as opposed to 3,000 tyrants one mile away?

  • The Tea Party movement would be silly if it was just about Obama.

    Obama is just the natural catastrophe that occurs toward the end of the road of what the Tea Party is standing against.

    He’s just the diabolical socialist, right down to the exploitation of race, that a century of the Left’s unreality is predicate to. Obama is an outcome who didn’t make, so much as he embodies, the catastrophe. Which is probably why three-quarters of who he is had to be hidden in plain sight. No one, not even Hannity (who spent the most time with it), got more than a millimeter deep into the meaning of that church Obama belonged to. It was a disqualifier at the starting blocks.

    But the Tea Party movement, while using this stage of the federal government as its focal point, has to go way deeper into the history of this mess and look at its moorings in and throughout the past eight decades, back to the 1930s, and it can go deeper and further back than that, too.

  • Accept it, internalize it, run on it and then do it. If they don’t then the cycle you see above in the chart will only repeat.

    I get the impression that for most politicians, the status quo works just fine and dandy.  Therefore there is little incentive to do anything other than promise one thing and do another.  If you shrink the government, make the budget smaller and manageable, and reduce the power in its hands, then the money and influence won’t flow as freely.  I’m not sure that there are enough people in DC who are willing to abandon that, even if the current course is leading us towards disaster.

    • The “financial meltdown” showed one thing that was murmured in the halls of the crazy militias and radicals on both the Right and the Left … the “special interests” are the feeding trough for most of DC, and not just Congress and the White House .. all of DC.
      If it’s not Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac buying off everyone in sight, it’s the “Global Warming” folks, the banks, or the market manipulators like George Soros.  It’s all about feeding the most idiotic line as a meme to the “masses” as they perform their “wallet-ectomy” or merely play “power” games to satisfy their egos.

      • I agree with that. One of the things that chapped my ass about the Republicans is that we got this “too big to fail” garbage because of a total neglect of our anti-trust laws.  I don’t think it is ever a good thing for a few large companies to control any major core industry.
        Unfortunately, Anti-Anti-Trust got to be a favorite meme of free market economists. It is an example of too much academic thinking taking over for common sense.

        • I don’t think it was an anti-trust issue; the “too big to fail” companies were not monopolies any more than GM or Chrysler.  My (admittedly hazy) understanding is that the meltdown had several causes, from too much government interference in the mortgage industry to not enough oversight (e.g. Maddoff; fraud charges against Goldman-Sachs) to simply the HUGE amounts of money that were controlled or tied up in several major banks that all got caught by the sub-prime mess at the same time.

          On a related note, I wonder if those banks would have gotten to be so big if not for government regulation.  Was the game rigged in favor of the big banks?  Or did they get to be so large by the natural process of successful firms growing by buying up other, smaller firms?

          • I think thousands of small boutique banks could easily do what the investment banks did without the “systemic” risks. The investment banks should never have been allowed to to be bailed out. They should also be partnerships, not public companies.
            You betcha, the more regulation, only the big boys can play.

    • They demonstrate the same sort of thinking you see in lefty commenters here (a drive by troll, and a particular academic come to mind) – it’s as if anything bad that come as a consequence of  encroaching government, taxation, or regulation, will take the tornado hop OVER them and leave them untouched.  They fail to perceive a social change brought about by these government plans will always affect them, assuming they aren’t already hiding in a bunker in Montana.

  • Oh, and it HAS to be about Obama, otherwise it has nothing to do with race, and might actually be something they should examine and rethink.  Listen to the rubes in flyover country?  Sooooo not going to happen.
    It will only be NOT about Obama when the survivors are trying to explain what happened to their lefty constituency.

  • Tea Party – 235 years ago today –  April 19th, 1775 – Lexington Green, Concord Bridge, and a long march back to Boston.

  • Actually, I agree with a lot of comments here.   Both parties realize that to get anything done, you can’t bulldoze the special interests (Frontline’s recent “Obama’s Deal” episode on the health care reform shows that).   Something like the tea party movement, however, limits its efficacy by embracing fringe rhetoric and demonization of liberals and Democrats.   Most liberals do not trust big government.  Obama’s has fierce critics on the left who accuse him of selling out.    A bi-partisan conservative and liberal effort to change Washington would be welcome — because otherwise the partisans hijack it, marginalize it, and we’re stuck with just the same old thing dressed up to look different.