From The Guardian:
This sense of optimism has been in retreat in almost every sense over the past few years. According to Rasmussen polls, just 21% of Americans believe the country is on the right track, a figure that has fallen by more than a half since the presidential election of 2004. Meanwhile only a third think the country’s best days are yet to come, as opposed to 43% who believe they have come and gone – again a steep decline on three years ago. These are not one-offs. In the past 18 months almost every poll that has asked Americans about their country’s direction has produced among the most pessimistic responses on record – a more extended period than anyone can remember since Watergate.
America, in short, is in a deep funk.
Hey!! Not everybody!!
Original DVD cover.
(Note: I am never sure if Michael Chertoff is actually happy, or if he just has gas. You know, trouble in his gut.)
There are three main reasons. Closest to home is the economy. Wages are stagnant, house prices in most areas have stalled or are falling, the dollar is plunging, and the deficit is rising. A Pew survey last week showed that 72% believe the economy is either “only fair” or poor and 76% believe it will be the same or worse a year from now.
Second is the Iraq war and the steep decline in America’s international standing it has prompted. A global-attitudes Pew poll from last year showed that 65% of Americans believe the country is less respected by the rest of the world than it was – double the figure of 20 years ago.
All surveys show that for some time a steady majority of the public believe the war was a mistake, is going badly and that the troops should be withdrawn.
Last week Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez, the former top commander of US troops in Iraq, spelled out the national despair, branding the war a “nightmare with no end in sight”.
Which brings us, finally, to the political class. Once again the American public have lost faith. The rot starts at the top. Almost as soon as they elected Bush in 2004 they seemed to regret it. Since Katrina, his favourability ratings have been stuck in the 30s and show no signs of moving – or at least not upwards. Bush’s only comfort is that public approval of the Democratically controlled Congress is even worse, hovering just below where it was shortly before the 2006 elections. In other words, however Americans believe their country will return to the right track, they no longer trust politicians to get them there.
…Americans are more wary of political happy talk than they have been for a long time. But that doesn’t mean they want to hear sad talk instead, even if it happens to be true. For the central problem is not that they were lied to – though that of course is a problem – but that they have constantly found some of these lies more palatable than the truth.
Herein lies the challenge for the presidential candidates in the coming year – how to respond to this pessimistic mood without reflecting or discussing its root causes: to lay out a plausible explanation of how Americans can get their groove back, without examining how they got in this rut in the first place.