Monday, September 21, 2009


A lot of people are fretting over this new Gallup poll:

Americans are more likely today than in the recent past to believe that government is taking on too much responsibility for solving the nation's problems and is over-regulating business. New Gallup data show that 57% of Americans say the government is trying to do too many things that should be left to businesses and individuals, and 45% say there is too much government regulation of business. Both reflect the highest such readings in more than a decade.

Is this a reaction to the Obama presidency? Well, in part I'd say it's a reaction to right-wing rhetoric about the Obama presidency, to judge from the last time numbers on a similar question were this high:

...the 45% "too much" reading is the highest of the decade and is higher than the one Gallup reading prior to this decade, in March 1993. However, a March 1981 Los Angeles Times poll using this question wording recorded a 54% "too much" level. This was just after Ronald Reagan took office, and may have reflected Reagan's emphasis during the 1980 presidential campaign on the need to reduce government involvement in American society.

"May have"? May have"?

Republican rhetoric has framed our view of this question, in Republican periods and (apparent) Democratic periods, for decades. Hell, to judge from Gallup's own numbers, the too-much-regulation number, now at 45%, was in the high 30s or low 40s throughout the George W. Bush presidency -- yes, people thought George W. Bush was a heavy-handed regulator, too:

Same for government doing too much that should be left to business:

The number is 57% -- but it was 55% just around the time of the 2004 election, after four years of Bush. It was 53% just around the time of the 2008 election, after eight years of Bush. And it was around 50% for nearly all of Bush's term -- half of America thought we had an overly interventionist government that got in business's way under Bush.

Steve Benen says,

After the excruciating failures of the Bush era, it was tempting to think the electorate might finally be prepared for an activist government , addressing crises that conservative policymakers preferred to ignore and neglect. That, alas, is not the case.

Well, no -- and of course it isn't. People didn't vote for Barack Obama because they had come to believe more firmly in government intervention and government programs. They voted for Barack Obama because things were bad and they thought he'd do ... something. They didn't know what exactly.

Every few years, our side gets the message out and persuades more people to vote Democratic. We don't get a message out that persuades more people to think in a genuinely progressive way. We never do that, and we desperately need to. We need to make more liberals, not just more Democrats.

Otherwise, this is the result: shock and horror when Democrats do (or even seem to do) Democratic things.

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