Free Markets, Free People

Why are Democrats so tone deaf? (update)

Rasmussen has a poll out that addresses the public’s feeling about government and job creation. To put it succinctly, they mostly think that government can best serve the public in that regard by cutting taxes.

And:

Sixty-five percent (65%) say decisions made by U.S. business leaders to help their own businesses grow will do more to create jobs than decisions made by government officials. Twenty-five percent (25%) say decisions made by government officials to create jobs will do more.

So their faith in a government solution v. a private sector solution is obvious. As another survey points out, the public is “dubious” of the administration claimed success in aiding any economic recovery:

Just 33% say the economic stimulus passed by Congress last year has helped the job situation and only somewhat more (42%) say the loans the federal government provided to troubled financial institutions prevented a more severe financial crisis. Less than a third (31%) says that the government has made progress in fixing the problems that caused the 2008 financial crisis.

That means Democrats are unlikely to reap the political reward from an economic turnaround that they would like.

It goes without saying, dissatisfaction with the economy and government (and government’s efforts in behalf of the economy) mean political trouble for the party in power. It means even more trouble for that party when the people make clear their priorities for the party in power (jobs, the economy and the deficit) and that party ignores them (HCR, financial reform, cap-and-trade, etc).

Another interesting tidbit from the Rasmussen poll which shows how disconnected the “Political Class” is from “Mainstream Voters”:

Similar distinctions are evident in the views of Mainstream voters versus those of the Political Class. Eighty-one percent (81%) of Mainstream voters, for example, think decisions made by U.S. business leaders to help their own businesses grow will do more to create new jobs than job-creation decisions made by government officials. The plurality (47%) of Political Class voters have more confidence in the decisions made by government officials.

So how did a victorious Democratic party and a president swept into power on the “Hope and Change” platform become so tone deaf to what the public really wants?

Most, I’m sure, remember candidate Obama saying that one of the things he really wanted to do was make government “cool again”. And, one can imagine, he thought that was part of his and the Democrats mandate when he was elected. Of course, the underlying premise of a desire to make government “cool again” is the belief that government is the answer to most problems.  Or more government is good government and good government is “cool”. They’ve accomplished the “more government part”, but it certainly certainly hasn’t translated into a perception of good government, has it?

Interestingly, David Brooks recently addressed that in an article saying:

In the first year of the Obama administration, the Democrats, either wittingly or unwittingly, decided to put the big government-versus-small government debate at the center of American life.

But Arnold Kling differs with that and I think what he says is more on the mark. His premise helps explain a lot, such as the Democratic tone deafness and their reaction to the emergence of the Tea Parties, etc. Talking about Brook’s statement above he says:

I would put this somewhat differently. The left decided that the debate was settled. They took the view that the financial crisis proved once and for all that markets do not work, and that wherever markets produce imperfect outcomes, government is the answer.

They, as many political parties have in the past, misinterpreted the outcome as a mandate to do what they perceived to be the desire of the people – expand the size, scope and cost of government – and set out on their merry way to do exactly that.

As it turns out, they were dead wrong. In fact, the term “dead wrong” doesn’t even begin to describe how wrong they were. Not only did the financial crises not support their interpretation, but – as with the “science” of AGW – nothing about the debate concerning the size, scope and cost of government was settled by their election. That’s not at all what the election was about – yet their own hubris wouldn’t allow them to see that. They decided to interpret it the way they found served their ideological best interest.

And they’ve blown it.

Recognizing that has to give one some hope. Americans are mostly rejecting big government and government solutions. Government is not “cool” again. And while the Democrats haven’t yet realized that, the GOP seems to be waking up to it – somewhat. They’re not there yet, and a certain number of them are as clueless as the Democrats, but I think the public is gearing up to smack many of those who are popularly known as “RINOs” around a bit in November as well (especially if they favor more government).

I think it is interesting though to consider this explanation as to why Democrats don’t seem to be able to get out of their own way and why they seem unable to change course and address that which the electorate really wants. All of that goes directly against the interpretation they gave the election of 2008 and they can’t yet admit to themselves, much less anyone else, that they were wrong.

UPDATE: If you don’t believe me, consider the commencement speech President Obama just delivered at the University of Michigan today:

President Obama on Saturday urged graduates at the University of Michigan to participate in public life as the president forcefully defended an activist role for government in dealing with society’s problems.

Don’t expect he or the Democrats to figure it out anytime soon.

~McQ

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25 Responses to Why are Democrats so tone deaf? (update)

  • The Democrats are tone deaf because they are naive enough to actually believe that most people voted for them instead of against the Republicans.

    We’ve been going back and forth for a while now, with the middle part of the electorate telling the parties that they’re screwing up and having the forlorn hope that the other party will actually move towards better, more efficient government. Most people have not thought much about what that means, but they know it doesn’t mean rewarding your buddies, continuously raising taxes and running deficits, never being willing to cut spending, and regulating everything in sight. And that seems to be what both parties are mostly into.

    That’s where the Tea Party dynamic comes from. It’s no accident that the people in the Tea Parties are those who have been around long enough to see how the last few “throw the bums out” cycles have utterly failed to make any long term difference.

    • It is not impossible that they really do know it was people voting against Bush and the GOP rather than for them, but with such a big win, they are tempted to ram the whole program regardless. They can’t exactly tell everyone “yeah, we know you don’t really like our plans” can they?
      Here is my question: why don’t parties have laws pre-drafted and ready to go when they get in power so they can pass them quickly and accomplish more if they do have a window of power? Is it the need for endless horse trading? Lack of manpower and time? The need for media exposure showing the legislators ‘at work”
      I would love to have elections where each party must show what laws they plan to pass before they get elected. that would allow rigorous oversight by the people.
       
       

  • The Democrats are tone deaf not because they misinteperted their mandate. They’re not even technically tone deaf- they just didn’t care. They saw they had the power (“I won”) and they knew they were going to move on certain things regardless of what the public said.

    The public’s “tone” never had anything to do with this. It never does with them. They care about the tone inasmuch as they can use it to gain power. Once the power is secured, it’s all out the window.  Do you really think Nancy Pelosi or Harry Reid has ever cared about the “tone”?

    I predict though that come the day after the elections, suddenly they’ll start paying more attention to the public again. At least to see what they need to say to fool the rubes.

  • President Obama on Saturday urged graduates at the University of Michigan to participate in public life as the president forcefully defended an activist role for government in dealing with society’s problems.

    Generally that means “fixing” the problems they created. Endlessly.
    How many times does someone buy a lemon before they pick a different brand?


  • Funny, but you guys didn’t say that about Bush, even when his approval was dipping far lower than Obama’s.  The fact is, if the economy improves, so will the President’s numbers.  And, compared to Reagan and Clinton at similar points, he’s not doing that bad.  I think your post is wishful thinking — after all, this is the same electorate who repudiated the GOP in 2006 and 2008.  They are fickle, and they are not ideological.  They’ll go with what seems to work, and reject what doesn’t.   You seem to want politicians to be poll driven rather than focused on what they think best.   Poll driven politicians are doomed — they follow short term snap shots of a fickle and changing mood at their long term peril.  That’s why Obama — like Reagan — is doing what is best for his political future by not waffling principle in the face of polls.  You seem to like it when those who think like you ignore polls for principle, but when the other side does it, it’s bad.   I have a feeling you’ll be very surprised by coming elections.

    • And, compared to Reagan and Clinton at similar points, he’s not doing that bad.

      Erb, you’ve been saying this since the beginning of the year and his numbers keep going down.  You said his numbers would recover once the health care bill had passed.  They didn’t and continue to slide.  You seem to want it both ways, when his numbers dip you say they don’t mean anything and when they bounce you are quick to point out he the rough patch has passed and his recovery has begun only to see his number slide again.

      At what point are you going to stop and admit the decline?  An then at that point you can do as we are doing - speculate at what he is going to do next to recover.

      By the way, I have a feeling you’ll be very disappointed by the coming elections.

      • “At what point are you going to stop and admit the decline?”

        Why should I ever do that? All I have to do is whip up another multiple truth.

    • Why would you say something so blatantly false?  We were all over GW, in fact most of us hated nearly everything he did, except some of the military actions, and the tax cuts.  It is a matter of public record you can check the archives.
       
      The real problem is that as bad as Bush was, Obama is worse, on nearly everything.

      • Why would you say something so blatantly false?  We were all over GW, in fact most of us hated nearly everything he did, except some of the military actions, and the tax cuts.  It is a matter of public record you can check the archives.

        I see two possibilities. He’s an ignorant fool who doesn’t really read what we say here before spouting this week’s talking points. Or he’s a bald-faced liar.

        Well, actually a third possibility occurs. He could be both.

        • Both.  He has a talking points narrative to follow and it also helps if he can define your position for you.

  • Scott Erb:  I had no love for the Bush administration (either), so don’t label me as “not saying anything” during his terms.  Good Lord, had the Democrats nominated a decent candidate EITHER time, we wouldn’t even be TALKING about Bush & Co.
    I take issue with your comment about “poll-driven” politics.  Polls take into consideration how well the party in power has made the case for what it sets about to do.  There is no excuse for a President and/or Congressional leader failing to make his/her case to the American people in a way that gets us on board.  Unless, of course, the case is faulty and we (the unwashed masses) don’t think it is prudent or smart or justified … i.e, we remain unconvinced and some are adamantly opposed.   Those adamantly opposed will probably remain that way regardless, but most of us WANT to believe that we’ve elected representatives and leaders that have our best interests front of mind.  Whatever the issue, whatever the cost to us and no matter what is expected of us, we’d like it laid out before we start applauding and joining the parade.  We wanted that of Bush, and didn’t often get it.  Now, as then,  we just need to see the evidence and understand the case in a rational way.
    In the case of economic and fiscal matters, I think this administration is way off course and (as we see in the poll) has failed to connect what it is doing with what many of us would say is just common sense and far sightedness.  The movers and shakers including the President are so unable to make the case that they are not even really trying.  “Trust us” doesn’t cut it anymore (especially after Bush).
    In sports, being out of position when things are happening rapidly all around you is referred to as being caught in “no man’s land”.   That’s what I am seeing.
    You refer to “principle” in your closing comments.  Please elaborate.  I don’t think I have been made aware of those principles as they relate to this administration, other than “hope and change”.

  • Funny, but you guys didn’t say that about Bush, even when his approval was dipping far lower than Obama’s. Well, hmmm, I just checked the archives and it appears you guys were pretty hard on Bush on everything except Iraq, and sometimes beat up about that too. So I guess I’m full of shit.

  • “…they are not ideological.”

    That’s precisely why they can’t stand such a Far Left ideologue as Obama. He’s in a total disconnect, and his strongly disapprove number is in the 42% range, or higher.

    Obama’s strong support is much weaker than his overall support. His natural point of recline is about 30% approval, and he’ll get there.

    But the Democratic Congress is already there.

  • Why are Democrats so tone deaf?

    I regret that I can’t remember who wrote it a couple of months ago, but it answers the question quite well:

    Democrats are interested in ruling, not governing.

    As for Imeme’s speech this afternoon, I scoffed when I read his impassioned defense of big government: he and the rest of the democrat trash didn’t take this attitude when Bush was in office.  In those days, Bush, Cheney, Hee-Haw Lott or Fatboy Hastert merely clearing their throats was clear evidence of a right-wing theocratic plot to shred the Constitution.

    Billy HollisIt’s no accident that the people in the Tea Parties are those who have been around long enough to see how the last few “throw the bums out” cycles have utterly failed to make any long term difference.

    A good observation.  It also explains why the democrats court the “youth vote” so heavily: the younger a voter is, the less likely he will remember being f*cked over by the democrats.  O’ course, as we know, some people can be flim-flammed by the dems their entire lives and go to their graves still trusting that bunch of crooks.

  • What is especially troubling for the general electorate is that in the past when the Congress and White House were heading in the wrong direction, the public could make enough noise to at the very least wtop actions in their tracks.
    In the case of health care reform, the public made it clear over and over and over again that they were unhappy with the path the Congress and White House had chosen, but the Congress and White House ignored them completely.

  • I don’t think Erb gets it. We are now at the beginning of the end for politics as usual ala welfare state and big government. If the US enters a Japan like decade, without the export capacity of Japan, and with less national savings, things are going to get very tricky for those promising cheeseburgers today for money tomorrow. The kimono has been opened on government costs and debt. The demographics won’t help airbrush it either, like it did before. 2008 was not just a crisis of capitalism, but also a crisis of statism.
    I bet in 2012 the most fiscally responsible Democratic governor will challenge Obama in the primaries. He or she may lose, but they may be poised for 2016 when/if the GOP blows it. The first politician in California who proposes the state employees take a salary and pension cut “for the sake of our children” gets it.
    I would also bet that we see a special kind of populist leader appear in Europe, akin to the Tea Party. Remember that while most Greeks work for the government, many do not and must resent the higher and higher taxes that will come. I would look at younger, technocratic business leaders who have been educated in the  USA or worked in Asia. Watching the BBC coverage of their elections, Clegg, the Liberal Democrat, is talking about lying politicians and the cost of government to great effect. Cameron who had stolen some of the Labor compassion for the poor bit, is doing less well. I think the “we will run government better” conservatives on both sides of the Atlantic are playing the old game. At this point, people want jobs and growth, and they know in their hearts that the state really doesn’t do that.
    p.s. Its of course also interesting to find that Asian countries are now boosting their safety nets and making progressive taxation more progressive. (at least in Taiwan.) At every election they have to promise more per month to the old people and more on healthcare with increased premiums for the rich. The cycle has begun there – I wonder when they start massive borrowing?
     
     

    •  The first politician in California who proposes the state employees take a salary and pension cut “for the sake of our children” gets it.

      >>

      LOL yeah he’ll “get it” – right between the eyes as the unions hound him out right quickly.  It won’t be like in NJ where Christie had some mandate to swing the axe going in.   

  • Another problem for the Democrats is their public employee union support. Eventually they will have to decide to side with the public employee unions or with funding services and some limited welfare policies. If they keep to the unions side they have to remain tone deaf. How else could you keep their support?

  • OTOH, the democrats in a year have accomplished more than 8-10 years of nudging the system in political safety.
     
    Its a suicide mission counting on the short memories of the public and the Republicans to disappoint.  There’s probably some truth in both of those.
     
    I mean the Republicans look seriously like they want (expect) congress to come back to them.  But I don’t see anything serious about the Presidency.  I don’t see any rumblings of candidates that are the least bit appealing.
     
    I consider the ’96 election was thrown because they ran an old man on viagra against  stud boy.  I suspect they plan to do it again.  A villain in the Whitehouse worked out for them in the past.  Gridlock on big issues that might cost you votes or that might get you demonized but control of the budget and regulations for those kickbacks.

  • jpm100, that’s exactly why a 2012 Democratic challenger may take a shot at Obama…if the GOP had a superstar, they would wait to 2016.

    • You want a GOP superstar? Tell you what, watch Christie.  If he actually gets the job done, we’ll have a candidate that appeals to fiscal conservatives, with a track record, that could probably take at least 1 East Coast state in the general.

      Of course, loooooooong way to go for him

      • shark, excellent point. Christie could be a potential superstar have the right track record.