MAYBE NOW LIBERALS WILL FIGURE OUT WHAT ORDINARY PEOPLE THINK, AND TAILOR THEIR MESSAGE ACCORDINGLY
Greg Sargent seems appalled at the polling on the debt deal (from a CNN survey; PDF of results here):
Sixty five percent approve of deal's spending cuts. But it gets worse. Of the 30 percent who disapprove, 13 percent think the cuts haven’t gotten far enough, and only 15 percent think the cuts go too far. One sixth of Americans agree with the liberal argument about the deal.
Yes, the poll also found that 60 percent disapprove of the deal’s lack of high-end tax hikes. Yes, approval of the GOP is lower than that of Obama or Dems. Such findings have led many, myself included, to conclude that Dems were winning the P.R war in this fight in particular.
But the public disapproves of everyone's handling of this mess. And while the public wanted the rich to kick in more, the poll finds that a plurality (49-42) believes the deal will help the economy, meaning a plurality believes the Republican argument that spending cuts are good economic policy.
But this isn't surprising at all. Anyone who pays any attention to ordinary people's opinions about government spending knows that they think there's massive, massive waste. And of course they think that. For years they've been told that government spending is done wastefully -- not just by the tea party or Fox or Limbaugh or Reagan, but even before Reagan. Anyone out there old enough to remember Senator William Proxmire and his "Golden Fleece Awards," which he announced regularly starting in the 1970s? He helped set the template for how most Americans think about government spending, highlighting programs that weren't the big government expenditures but were easily mocked. And now there are Proxmires everywhere you look. So naturally the public thinks government money is spent wastefully.
If you poll Americans on actual big-ticket government programs, they generally say they want them retained. So what you have to do to swing voters around to liberalism is to persuade them that the percentage of waste in government spending really isn't anywhere near what they think it is.
You'd also have to explain that government shouldn't manage its finances the way a family does -- it really should spend more, and run deficits, in tough times, in a prudent fashion. But that would entail explaining why Keynesianism actually works.
It might be better to demonstrate that by example. We wouldn't be having this anti-Keynesian moment right now if the public believed that the programs started by the current Democratic president actually worked. Did they see much infrastructure being repaired? Did a significant number of people get mortgage modifications? Are jobs being created as a result of government incentives? Has the health care bill done anything for the vast majority of Americans?
Liberals of the wonkish persuasion, both in government (especially in the White House) and outside of government, think that if they and their friends understand intellectually that a government program works, then most non-tea party America also understands that. Bollocks -- the public needs to see results. Failing that, the public needs to have results pointed out. (The auto bailout worked, right? Does most of America have any idea how well?)
Defend government. Do government better. Then you won't get poll results like this.