When Liberal Dreams Collide With Public Opinion

by Michael Barone
Real Clear Politics
December 21, 2009

In the Bella Center on the south side of Copenhagen and in the Senate chamber on the north side of the Capitol, we’re seeing what happens when liberal dreams collide with American public opinion. It’s like what happens when a butterfly collides with the windshield of a speeding SUV. Splat.

The liberal dreams may have seemed, on those nights in Invesco Field and Grant Park, as beautiful as a butterfly. But they are still subject to the merciless laws of political physics.

Eleven months ago, this did not seem inevitable. It was widely supposed that economic distress would increase America’s appetite for big government measures to restrict carbon dioxide emissions and control the provision of health care. Especially when a young dynamic president employed his oratorical gifts to transcend, as he put it, old ideological and partisan divisions.

Barack Obama, who seemed so confident of his powers as he prepared for his inauguration, evidently believed that he could persuade Americans to support left-of-center policies that they had never favored before…

…”What’s really exceptional at this stage of Obama’s presidency,” writes Andrew Kohut, the Pew Research Center’s respected pollster, “is the extent to which the public has moved in a conservative direction on a range of issues. These trends have emanated as much from the middle of the electorate as from the highly energized conservative right. Even more notable, however, is the extent to which liberals appear to be dozing as the country has shifted on both economic and social issues.”

From which we can draw two conclusions. One is that economic distress does not move Americans to support more government. Rasmussen reports that 66 percent of Americans favor smaller government with fewer services and only 22 percent favor more services and higher taxes.

The second is that Barack Obama’s persuasive powers are surprisingly weak. His advocacy seems to have moved Americans in the opposite of the intended direction…

The entire article is at Real Clear Politics.

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