The Verdict Is In: DC Talking Past Rest of Nation

August 3rd, 2011 at 5:33 pm

Check out these poll results from Gallup/USA Today on the debt ceiling budget deal.

I’m sure most people don’t know the gruesome details— baselines, sequesters, the decision tree, etc.—so this should be read as more impressionistic, I’d guess.

But as far as whether they liked the deal, it’s a pretty big blah, though a majority of D’s approved of it…I suspect at the point the poll was taken, Aug 2, people associated the deal with the President, and this explains the partisan split.

But here’s a part that caught my attention:

More than twice as many respondents over all thought it was a bad deal for the economy, but the shares who thought it would make the economy worse (or wouldn’t matter much at all) were particularly high for Rs, conservatives, and independents.

Again, this may be purely political with the R’s, but jeez, I thought the theory of the case was that this sort of thing is supposed to appeal to the sought-after independents who were dyin’ to get their spending cuts on.

Anyway, certainly not the last word on public opinion re the deal, but this just confirms what was obvious: DC’s been talking past the rest of the country.

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8 comments in reply to "The Verdict Is In: DC Talking Past Rest of Nation"

  1. Mimikatz says:

    I thought the GOPsters thought that cutting spending would cause the economy to improve. It turns out they thought it would make things worse. Maybe they want that because it will hurt Obama’s chances. What is it they really want? Bizarre.


  2. Mary says:

    Yes, which is what Krugman, DeLong and others have been saying for awhile — people don’t really care about the debt and deficit. They care about jobs. So this whole exercise was not just economically but also politically unwise. These are super smart people and have been doing this for awhile. The Administration needs to trust their judgment and stop viewing them as overly critical. They care about Obama. They want him to be successful. That’s why they are critical.

    I believe that you have the best of intentions. Many liberals engaged in politics do, and reasonable people can and do disagree, often passionately because we love this country. We want it to succeed. We want it to live up to its potential. I love/hate politics. It drives me crazy. I swear it off everyday, but then come right back to following events. (It’s a terrible affliction. If someone has a cure, I’ll be forever indebted.)

    You’re a smart person. I like the scholarly approach you take with data. It’s clear. It’s methodical. I think stats-whisperer is a good term for what you do, and it’s a really important and difficult thing to do well. But it’s also important to remember that politics is really about people. Whether you’re an economist, a policy wonk, or a politician you have to think about the communication from that perspective.

    Let me give you an example, and I draw from my own reaction (I was an enthusiastic supporter of Obama in ’08) and from polls, the news, etc. You said, “So, what’s a President to do within such binding constraints? Well, if you can’t do…teach.”

    I would be very careful with this. The president already has an image of being professorial and weak. Really, people just want him to get things done. People are frustrated and tired. They don’t really care to learn how the sausage is made. And if Obama comes across at all condescending, it’s going to infuriate people, especially his base and the independents who voted for him. I think that people in the Administration are not appreciating his voters’ efforts and are not respecting the fact that the voters are actually on his side but he’s making it hard for them to stay supportive. Scolding them for not understanding the situation, which he has done in the past, or “teaching” them, in my opinion, is not going to win them over. He risks (further) marginalizing his support, which would be political suicide.

    I think the Administration needs to understand that there is a real and entirely justified anger at the president (really at all of Washington, and who can blame them), and he needs to respond appropriately. It’s like when you’re having a fight with someone. When you stop talking and really listen to the person, and then say those two magic words, “I understand,” the anger level will drop dramatically. I can guarantee it. Be defensive and watch it escalate. It takes self-control to do this, but I know Obama can do it. He has some weaknesses, but lack of self-control isn’t one of them.

    His supporters and the country deserve to have their frustration and anger acknowledged and understood. It is justified because Obama is not an experienced politician, and he made several strategic mistakes. That’s not great, but it’s OK because we know he meant well. We understand him to be reasonable. We know that the Republicans are jerks and obstructionists. We know that they have made Obama’s term difficult. It’s OK for him to say these things to the American people. He needs to do so. He needs to be honest with us about where he and the country are at so that we can fight with him. It’s OK for him to be human. We’re not automatons. Americans will sympathize with him.

    What’s not OK is for him to blame his base for not understanding the politics. Obama needs to take a page out of the Clinton handbook on this and come across as conciliatory. And of course, it needs to be sincere. Obama should actually feel that he has let Americans down because he has, and he needs to understand that we expect him to fight harder, a lot harder. We don’t need to fight for government. Government needs to fight for us.

    I highly suggest that Obama get a really experienced PR team, one that understands people to help him frame things. He isn’t a natural at this like Clinton so Obama needs to practice (in front of a mirror). You have to be a bit of an actor in politics. Act out rants like Boehner likes to give. Practice empathizing with the American people and giving soft speeches that win over their sympathy and support. People are attracted to coolness and compromise in certain circumstances. In others, they want their politicians to be the person they can’t be, to have the voice they can’t have, to be angry, defiant, etc. Obama needs to convince people that he can be that person, that voice, that he has a wide emotional and strategic range.

    Obama can use this to help him pivot. http://www.economist.com/blogs/freeexchange/2011/08/fiscal-policy
    It was a gross underestimation of the severity of the problem and a PR gift that got lost in the debt ceiling madness. I highly suggest that he use it to his advantage. Not as an excuse, but as a defense of the policies he will now need to sell to the American people. Also see Krugman’s important point today about spinning. I made the same point about ARRA ages ago. Don’t spin, mitigate expectations. The country is very likely going to have a double dip recession. In my opinion, Obama needs to change his tack and his relationship with the American people now before things get worse.


    • Blad says:

      Mary is absolutely right. I’d go a little further and say that Democrats in general, and the president in particular, need to stop thinking that a carefully reasoned response is effective or even helpful in matters of national importance when the issues are emotionally fraught for the public. It’s fine to know your answer makes more sense, but unless you understand, acknowledge and express the emotional state of your constituents, you’ll never get the chance to implement it. Somebody in the 2008 campaign seemed to know this; I’m curious about where that person has been lately.

      The GOP seems to know this intuitively. They don’t even try to make a rational case. The Democrats need to become familiar with emotional systems process. Then they need to put some passion behind their reason and make a connection with the emotions of American voters.


    • viewfromTHL says:

      Do you think an across-the-board tax holiday would have worked better than the Demos pork-filled budget and the “stimulus” package? I do and did in Nov 2008 when a trusted colleague suggested it to me. Obama would never have thought of it because he is an ideologue who ahs surrounded himself with people who only give him solutions that fit inside his box.


  3. Phil Perspective says:

    Jared:
    And I’d guess it only polls so high among liberals/Democrats is because the President signed it. I’d bet Democrats/Liberals would poo-poo this same deal in large numbers if it was signed into law by Dubya, Mittens or Governor “Goodhair.”


  4. Jared Bernstein: What the Heck Is Going on With the Stock Market? | FierceReason.com says:

    […] I get it — kind of. The economy’s lousy, the political system is too, the European debt crisis is dragging on if not deepening (I’m doing my part to help by eating a Greek yogurt as we speak), and the debt deal apparently hasn’t pleased anyone. […]


  5. Jared Bernstein: What the Heck Is Going on With the Stock Market? says:

    […] I get it — kind of. The economy's lousy, the political system is too, the European debt crisis is dragging on if not deepening (I'm doing my part to help by eating a Greek yogurt as we speak), and the debt deal apparently hasn't pleased anyone. […]


  6. Richard Heck says:

    I can’t imagine why any Democrat would be happy with this “deal”. The crisis that led to it was invented by people who despise everything Democrats stand for, and Obama ought to have stood his ground. Frankly, I’m disgusted with him, and I will not vote for him, or anyone who voted for this thing, again. Ever. That includes my own Senator Kerry, and my Representative, Steve Lynch. Neither will get another vote from me. I’ll vote for my cat first.


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