REPLIES TO THE CURRENT QUESTION
Our question last week was:
It's noted that poll after poll shows that the president is more popular, by far, than his policies. What is your explanation of this, and how can the Republican Party exploit the split?
Here are your answers. The name of a writer is included only if he or she actually placed a name at the end of the message. Otherwise, we assume the writer wished anonymity and "name withheld" is inserted.
Personally, I'm skeptical of most political poll results, and I believe too much emphasis is put on political polling done for "quick and dirty" daily public consumption. Scientific polling is quite complex, and I've spent quite a bit of my working life trying to help do it well. Polls can vary from serious, sophisticated (and expensive) attempts to test scientific hypotheses (for example medical studies to unravel disease risk factors) to marketing surveys on how salty people like their soup. As Don Newell correctly pointed out last week, getting accurate results from a statistical sample requires a lot more work than is currently being done in media-supported political polls.
Responsible and skilled political polling businesses do their best to try to reduce bias in the polling process. Nevertheless, the effort that can be devoted to preventing bias (intended and unintended) is limited by budgets, time, respondent and interviewer (lack of) cooperation, to name just a few.
Regarding polling of voter satisfaction with Obama, many factors are certainly in play. I think many voters are not yet paying much serious attention to what he is doing, or they do not understand the consequences in any clear way. (This is, to some degree, understandable, given our complex financial mess, as well as Obama's ability to convince one and all that he agrees with them.)
Also, I think many citizens became emotionally attached to his election for various reasons (pride in our first multi-racial president, his almost hypnotic way of speaking, and his charismatic manner). I suspect that many people who voted for him are not yet ready to admit they were mistaken, and, unless they are personally suffering, or worried about consequences of his policies, are not yet quite ready to abandon him.
Nonetheless, Obama's personal approval rates do appear to be slowly dropping as many folks are waking up, but it is going to take a bit more time before they lose faith in their dreams of "hope and change." I think the Republican party would be better off not appearing to "exploit" this personal-policy split in a contentious manner. Rather, they need to develop serious alternatives to policies they don't agree with, and support and encourage Republicans who can articulate them well:
Provide a better alternative, and say why it is better in a way the average voter will understand.
The first question: Why is the president so popular in spite of the fact that his policies are not? I think that a large portion of the American population just isn't paying attention. Folks don't seem to be as involved as they were a number of years ago. They watch inane content on TV and think they are informed. I have talked to a lot of people who are smart, successful and seem to be on top of things, but they have no facts.
I was a freshman in high school when Kennedy was elected. Everyone I knew had opinions, knew where he went to school, knew about Joe Kennedy, knew about Nixon. We would talk about it as we cruised the local drive-in looking for girls. My dad voted for Nixon, my mom voted for Kennedy, they didn't get divorced over it. We argued at home at the dinner table. At 14, I was for anyone who would make the world less boring. Of course, I couldn't vote yet. Mom's vote won and dad conceded.
How can the conservatives exploit this? Facts, stand on principles for once, do not stop talking and explaining, educate the folks, yell if you have to. I don't know of more than three or four conservative politicians whom I have heard anything from in this vein. Where are they? Politics used to be a more robust shouting match. Now it is all about parsing your words. What do we have to do, get on the rooftops like the Iranians and scream all night? I would rather it not come to that. But, bullhorns are cheap.
On The Road in America
Q: It's noted that poll after poll shows that the president is more
popular, by far, than his policies. What is your explanation of this,
and how can the Republican Party exploit the split?
A: Because conservatives can distinguish between a person's character
and the policies he pursues. They don't hate Obama because of his
policies, they hate his policies. Liberals and progressives don't make
such distinctions. If they hate your policies, they'll hate you. Just
ask former President George Bush and former VP candidate Sarah Palin.
The only way Republicans can "exploit" the split is to offer
well-considered alternatives to Obama's liberal/progressive proposals.
That includes social issues from abortion and gay marriage to a
variety of environmental issues. Simply ignoring those issues,
ridiculing those who promote them or claiming they aren't
important to vast numbers of Americans no longer works in their case.
WHY on earth do people still find personally popular, likeable, a man whose words and actions do not match? That is like saying Hitler was really a nice man, just don't analyze the death and destruction he caused.
You don't say one thing and do another by mistake; it is intentional. If it is a mistake, you apologize and explain. If it's naiveté, you learn. But, if it's not a mistake or naiveté, it is deceit. What Obama has sold us is deceit. Americans must wake up and take responsibility for their elected officials, just as the Iranians are trying to do now.
I believe every conservative who voted for this president owes the entire nation an apology for the course he is taking us on. And THEY must act to stand with their congressmen and senators to stop his deceit.
Keep up the GREAT work, I so enjoy your site and the Angel's Corner.
In the words of his vice president, Obama is "clean and articulate." Was there ever a bigger buffoon holding high public office? However, in his own clownish way, Biden has a point. BHO is a handsome, intelligent, orator with a very attractive family that he clearly loves and adores. Americans like these types of superficialities in our leaders. It doesn't matter that some of the best political leaders were less than ideal family men, like FDR, or that some were great family men but quite mediocre leaders, think Bush I. Plus, Americans, as fair minded people, want to give any new leader a chance and will root for his success. Couple this with a fawning media and you have the perfect combination for a newly elected president with a personal image Nixon would have died for.
But, as the polls show, Americans are capable of splitting the image off from the policies. The Democrats are overreaching. They have misread the dissatisification with GWB and the Republican congress as an embrace of the liberal agenda. The Republicans need to do two things to exploit this mistake. First, acknowledge that the previous congress abused the public trust with its profligate spending. Second, articulate a vision of government and America that rejects the creeping statism of the Democrats and explain why this is against our founding principles, and how it will ultimately weaken us as a people socially, economically and internationally.
I don't believe the Republicans were beaten because of an unpopular war. The overwhelming majority of Americans want to win. They do not want to capitulate to Islamic totalitarianism, as our current leader seems to want. I don't believe that most Americans wish to be infantilized by the cradle-to-grave nanny state.
It will be an uphill climb for the Republicans. Explaining why government is not the solution but the problem takes more than just a 10-second sound bite on the evening news. But, if we can get a few spokemen who can each articulate a particular aspect of why the Democratic program is bad for America, do the talk shows, put up political commercials, use every media oppurtunity to drive home a consistent message, and put out the message on conservative internet sites to energize the base, we have a fighting chance in 2010. But, the Republicans must fight. Articluate, without rancor, why Sotomayor is a horrible choice to be a Supreme Court justice, and filibuster if you must. Do not compromise on socializing medicine. Vote as a bloc against it. Do not give cover to the Democrats. Vote against their program and cogently articulate a counter solution.
Stockholm Syndrome comes to mind. Probably as good an explanation as any.
Exploiting a train wreck is not good policy. The Republican Party needs to quit thinking about exploiting and start performing. To quote an old Republican, me probably, "If we Republicans can't articulate principles in a way that is meaningful, then we deserve to be on the outside looking in." Not particularly phraseworthy, but I'll try to do better in the future. There is still a majority core in the body politic that believes that self reliance, initiative and personal responsibility are what democracy is all about. They once were called the silent majority. Unless we speak up, we will soon be called a dying minority.
What accounts for the difference in personal popularity and policy approval? I believe most Americans live compartmentalized lives and do not see how each one affects the other. Critical thinking has been replaced by the "sound bites." Obama is one of the "beautiful people" with a charismatic personality, one that enables people to write their fantasies on to his slate of eloquence. Thus an emotional identification is made with him, and they do not want him (or themselves) to fail.
Basically people have good hearts and usually see the best in others until they are personally affected adversely by the new policies. Even then those who have leanings toward victimhood find excuses for why their "famous idol" is not responsible. Someone else or some other event is responsible, surely not Obama and his decisions. Their personal identification with Obama stubbornly refuses to let them see the objective truth.
I believe the debate is not so much between which party is best but which philosophical approach to governing is best, liberal or conservative. Conservatives must answer this victim, collective mindset with clear statements of policies that will work and why. They must set up a "contract" with America that inspires personal incentives and an infectious can-do spirit, that cuts regulations but promises strong enforcement of common-sense regulations already on the books, that allows people to keep a high percentage of what they earn and to decide what they wish to distribute, that assures that double standards in ethics will not prevail.
Conservatives must dispel Obama's "fairness" doctrine that underscores a deceptive approach to socialism and stress the "free choice" doctrine that creates an even playing field of opportunities for anyone who wishes to work and release his entrepreneurial spirit.
We are a nation of free individuals capable of great talent and goodness to work with others, not a "collective mass" to be herded by powerful intellectual "elites."