Saturday, August 29, 2009


Charles Blow, on today's New York Times op-ed page:

Liberals are flummoxed by the fact that obviously false and widely discredited claims about health care reform have not only taken root, but appear to be growing in acceptance....

What gives?

Is it partly the utter gullibility of some people? Sure. Is it partly deep-seated resentment of the black man in the White House? No doubt. But it's also about something more fundamental: fluctuations of basic trust in the federal government.

... according to an analysis of The New York Times/CBS News polls from the past 33 years, Americans seem to trust the government substantially more after a Republican president is elected than they do after a Democratic one is elected -- at least at the outset....

Interesting numbers -- but I think Blow has cause and effect switched around.

People don't trust government less because a Democrat is elected president. They elect a Democratic president at moments when they trust government less.

Since 1980 -- maybe since 1972 or 1968 -- the default in America has been sending a GOP Daddy to sit in the Oval Office. GOP Daddy will be the grown-up and make all the bad things go away. The only times since then that we've elected a non-incumbent Democrat -- '76, '92, and '08 -- were when GOP Daddy had utterly failed us. (You could also throw in '96, when the incumbent Clinton was reelected, because the GOP Daddy who'd failed us was the guy who'd effectively declared himself the real president of the United States, Newt Gingrich.)

Blow adds:

Surprisingly, Democrats' trust in government was the same or higher after a Republican was elected than it was after a Democrat was elected. That in spite of the fact that all three Democratic presidents came into office at the same time that their party had won control of both chambers of Congress.

Well, Democrats generally have some trust in government -- it's diminshed somewhat, however, in those moments of mistrust when we've felt the need to kick the Republicans out of the White House.

But as a country, we generally trust GOP Daddy with the keys to the White House because he'll put everything right. We pick Democratic presidents only when we're angry and hurt and want to rebel against the proper way of doing things, because our real Daddy has betrayed us. Democrats, you see, are dirty hippies, not real Daddies. This is a stereotype the leaders of the Democratic Party might want tothink about trying to alter one of these days, though there's no evidence that anyone in the party has given it much consideration.

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