I too am very encouraged by the NPR poll
showing major advantages for Democrats in the upcoming midterms, and you'd be even more encouraged
if you listen to Mara Liasson's story. But a different poll, conducted by NBC/WSJ, and available here,
confirms all the assumptions I made in my post The Era of Low Expectations.
See, people have no faith in anything anymore. Pessimism is on an astounding rise. And in that environment, we may win in November, but ultimately we'll lose.
Here are the findings of the poll
With congressional midterm elections less than four months away, the latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll finds that candidates will be facing a public that has grown increasingly pessimistic, as nearly two-thirds don't believe life for their children's generation will be better than it has been for them, and nearly 60 percent are doubtful the Iraq war will come to a successful conclusion.
And there's more pessimism: Among those who believe the nation is headed on the wrong track, more than 80 percent say it's part of a longer-term decline.
"This is just a horrendous set of numbers," says Democratic pollster Peter D. Hart, who conducted this survey with Republican Bill McInturff. The mood is "as dank and depressing as I have seen."
According to the poll, 65 percent say they feel less confident that life for their children's generation will be better than it was for them. In December 2001, the last time this question was asked, respondents — by a 49-42 percent margin — said they were confident life would be better for their children.
The national mood is MORE depressed than it was three months after 9/11.
Now, with Republicans in charge, you'd assume that this was a good thing. And the pollsters would agree with you:
And this isn't good news for Bush and the Republican Party, say the pollsters who conducted this survey, because it means that — outside of an extraordinary event — the political environment is pretty much locked in as we head into the November elections.
"I feel like Republicans are in a barrel and headed toward Niagara Falls," says Hart. "It's ... a python-like grip in terms of a negative mood. This is wrapped pretty tight."
Well, I think you'd be wrong. It's clear to me that people have a sense of learned helplessness, believing that government is simply unable to solve the pressing problems facing the nation, and individuals are unable to pull themselves out of the mess either.
That's EXACTLY what Republicans want you to think. When government doesn't work, it buttresses the argument that there shouldn't be as much government. It allows our leaders to do less, not more, and continue to foster the YOYO (You're On Your Own) philosophy that is at the core of conservatism. They WANT alienation and frustration. First of all, it's likely to mean less people at the polls, if nobody believes their choice makes any kind of difference. Second of all, it relieves any pressure to actually accomplish anything for people, since there's no assumption that it's even possible to do so. Third, it removes oversight from the venal and corrupt Congressional payoff machine, as their day-to-day activities slowly become irrelevant and under no scrutiny.
We cannot continue as a society like this. This poll tells me that whatever gains the Democrats make will be predicated on how not-Republican we are, instead of how Democratic we are. And that's a stopgap measure. The more nervous Democratic strategists, like the Daily Kos' Markos Moulitsas, are pessimistic about our chances in November. After reading this poll, I have to go further than him and say that at this moment, I'm pessimistic about our chances long-term, since the national mood offers no hope for inspiration, which Democrats desperately need. Strike that, which PEOPLE desperately need. We're walking around like zombies, angry about the state of affairs but with no expectations that the world's problems can be fixed. We expect nothing of our leaders, nothing of our institutions, and nothing of ourselves.
However, I think this all can turn around. And it's up to every one of us.
It's incumbent upon everyone with a stake in the future of the planet, and that pretty much covers everyone, to understand that THESE PROBLEMS CAN BE FIXED. Don't think so?
Yesterday San Francisco approved universal health care coverage
for everyone within its city limits. It has a few legal hurdles, and I'm sure 100 people would have 100 opinions about its revenue structure and quality of coverage, but it's going to happen, and it's an incredibly positive step. This can be a model for the nation, and we can do this in every municipality, in every state, and at the federal level.
The Chicago City Council approved a living wage law
for big-box stores that do business in their city. That's almost unprecedented. And it's common sense. Add this to Wal-Mart's efforts to go green
, investing half a billion dollars in sustainability projects, and you see that people power CAN make a difference.
I'm not surprised that so many of these victories are happening at the state and local level. But it's bubbling up to the federal level as well. The House hasn't had a vote on the minimum wage in a decade. Until this year,
with a bill that the Republican Whip calls a "will-pass" measure.
You can grouse and complain and despair and feel like nothing can ever change. Believe me, I do it every day. I'm about as cynical about the world as anyone. But that doesn't mean that another world isn't possible. Government can absolutely provide for its citizens. It can absolutely respond to its citizens' needs. It can absolutely be a lever to technological innovation and societal progress. When you start to believe that it's hopeless, progress can never win. Republicans thrive in such an environment, since they're contemptuous of government anyway. They'd rather reward one another under cover of darkness without having to provide services or even an explanation to the public at large. We cannot fall into this trap.
Sure, Republicans will try to block all these things. They'll play to the national pessimism and claim "it can't be done," but when you start delivering on promises, that negativity will melt away. Today's online progressive bloggers are fond of saying that they're all about winning. I'm not. I'm all about making government work for people, because when you do that, you won't just win the next election, but you'll have a permanent and lasting majority that will change the society for the better.