Look in the polls, as in a mirror, to see America drift to the Right

Summary:  How have the two major parties done in attracting and retaining the public’s confidence and allegiance, from February 2009 to now? The long slow recovery should have boosted the Democratic Party, who have controlled the Executive Branch and the Senate. It hasn’t. In fact the Democrat’s remain locked into the long decline of the Left, which they’ve ridden by following the public’s shift to the Right (Democratic leaders of the 1960’s would be considered radical commies if they ran today). This is interesting since so many Republicans have gone crazy.

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Poll by Hart Research Associates
Commissioned by NBC News and the Wall Street Journal
Done 22 – 25 January 2014.

Question #6:

“Now I’m going to read you the names of several public figures and groups and I’d like you to rate your feelings toward each one as very positive, somewhat positive, neutral, somewhat negative, or very negative.”

Compare the results for February 2009 (soon after the inauguration) and January 2014 (% for each answer; the results are similar for December 2008). Political scientists have more sophisticated ways to measure people’s political alignment, but this is the bottom lines for elections.

One party running America

The Democratic Party:

Positive -12, Neutral +4, Negative +9, Don’t know -1

  • Very positive:………….20 vs 10…..10
  • Somewhat positive:….29 vs 27…..02
  • Neutral:………………….18 vs 22…..+04
  • Somewhat negative:…14 vs 20…..+06
  • Very negative:………….17 vs 20…..+03
  • Don’t know:…………….02 vs 01…..-01

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Republican winning - in results
The Republican Party

Positive -2, Don’t know -2, Neutral +4, Negative unchanged.

  • Very positive:………….07 vs 05…..-02
  • Somewhat positive:….19 vs 19…..no change
  • Neutral:………………….24 vs 28…..+04
  • Somewhat negative:…25 vs 22…..-03
  • Very negative:………….22 vs 25…..+03
  • Don’t know:…………….03 vs 01…..-02

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We have the Tea Party Movement. If we had a strong Left in this country…

…what would they they focus on?

  1. Ending our mad wars, which spend blood and money but do nothing for America.
  2. Rebuilding our decaying infrastructure and education systems.
  3. Destruction of the biosphere (not just climate change), such as pollution & overfishing.
  4. Address the growth in equality since the 1970’s, now at the point where our society is reconfiguring to accommodate the new class structure.

For more about the last point read “If the rich can write the rules then we have a real problem”, interview with Angus Deaton (Prof Economics, Princeton), blog of the London School of Economics, 5 December 2013.

Unicorn politics
Imagine our new political party

For More Information

(a)  About American politics:

  1. Posts about politics in America
  2. Posts about the Democratic Party
  3. Posts about Obama, his administration and policies

(b)  The great shift to the Right:

(c)  About our ruling party:

(d)  Posts about the Republican Party:

  1. The evolution of the Republican Party has shaped America during the past fifty years, 8 May 2010
  2. Why Republicans Need Remedial Math: Their Budget Plans Explode the Deficit, 16 March 2012
  3. Let’s list the GOP’s problems. They’re all easily solvable, 12 November 2012
  4. The Republican Party is like America, and can quickly recover it strength, 14 November 2012
  5. A harsh clear look at the history of the Republican Party, 22 September 2013
  6. Most of what Democrats say is wrong about the Republicans’ recent actions in Congress, 1 October 2013
  7. Surveys look into the heart of GOP weirdness: belief in conspiracy theories, 3 October 2013
  8. A new political party for a New America: the Tea Party GOP, 9 October 2013

(e)  Posts about the Democratic Party:

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28 thoughts on “Look in the polls, as in a mirror, to see America drift to the Right

  1. Just to point to some lapsuses.
    “Political scientists have more sophisticated wars to measure people’s political alignment, but this is the bottom lines for elections.”
    ways instead “wars”
    and:
    Somewhat positive:….29 vs 27…..-12

    What would be your guess on the relation of causality: Going right is causing economic decline, or economic decline causing going right?
    In my wiew, the decline started 30 years ago but it was patched up and hidden by temporary measures that hit the effectivness floor in 2008. Or was it the trust in the government that is moving the society to the right? With Church proceedings, Nixon, Iran contra, torture and now financialisation bust and control of the government by bankers?

    Is government moving right or public moving left? I see more like public moving left after infatuation with rightish thinking in 80’s. A kind of self reaction of new generations to older generations that were stingy and selfcentered prone to dogma.

    1. Jordan,

      “What would be your guess on the relation of causality: Going right is causing economic decline, or economic decline causing going right?”

      (a) The move to the right started long ago. Depending on one’s perspective, in the 1970s. Certainly with the election of Reagan in 1980.

      (b) There has been no economic decline in the US in any meaningful sense, over any time scale. Other than the inevitable reduction in relative standing as the rest of the world grows — which since WW2 has been US policy to facilitate.

      (c) There has been a shift of wealth and income distribution within the US, as the class system of the New America emerges. And our political system has adjusted to this. Such as the evolution of a tiered justice system: High, Middle, and Low Justice.

      (d) You ask the great question: why? Beyond my ability to do more than make wild guesses.

    2. “reduction in relative standing as the rest of the world grows — which since WW2 has been US policy to facilitate.”

      I would believe that if USA had adopted Keynes’ Bancor solution instead of Bretton Woods after the WWII. Bretton Woods is inteded to ensure control over those that cought up in relation to the USA. Bretton Woods was a solution just as Gold Standard was, or fixed exchange rate is. It forces the return of previous relative standing between the parties.

      Gold Standard or fixed exchange rates do not prevent inflation, it only prevents government from printing money while private banks keep doing it. After the time of inflation and faster standard growth of lower wage country which flow of capital and credit growth induce, fixed exchange and GS can force return of standards as it was in the beggining if controling party decides so. If it decides not to extend refinancing of debt anymore, all previous growth will be reduced to previous relation in developement or to the point where the controling subject wants and then allows for further unconditional refinacing of debt.

      This is how euro is used to push back Greece and other PIGS back to developement level relative to Germany as it used to be at the beggining of the euro implementation. Debt levels do not matter, it is just by decision of controling countries which are usualy much more indebted then wictims. They use Fixed exchange rate to enforce living standard relations at will.

      This is how Bretton Woods was set up, while in Bancor solution there would be no controling party to affect reduction of standards. And there are continous attempts to return to BW system (not called such), even with more control by BIS (banks for international setlements) that is under the control of usual actors.

      This is how i experienced fast catch up of Croatia to standards of EU after the war. It took only 10 years of inflation and credit growth to catch up to 75% of EU standard from 25% in 1995. By credit growth and inflation that is being forced back into the 1994 levels when the exchange rate became fixed. Croatia is still one of the only 3 of the EU27 countries under 60% public debt as in Maastricht treaty, but they are still forcing us to get back to earlier living standards causing unemployment. That is what GS and fixed exchange and BW are used for. Satisfying the jellousy of developed world toward previous low standard areas.

      So by collapse of BW system, USA had to allow standard growth of others, and sometimes does support agregat demands of others by importing their goods which also imports unemployment.
      But i do not see it as generally intentional towards all, towards allys, yes, for the hegemony cause.

    1. Tim,

      “No – the country has not drifted to the right.”

      We have a powerful vibrant political organization on the Right. And on the Left? Nothing. See this in terms of political mobilization: there is nothing on the Left of the scale and scope of the Tea Party. The Right-wing in Congress is bold and strong, with no equivalent on the Left.

      The Right has made strong advances in public policy during the past 30 years. The signature issue of the Left is climate change, about which they’ve accomplished nothing (see the next post for more about this).

      I could go on, but all this is too obvious to bother. The exception is in some aspects of social policy (e.g., gay marriage, smoking pot, etc). The 1% doesn’t care about these things. The peons can screw who they want and smoke what they want, so long as the 1% gains material and political power.

    2. On some social issues America has moved towards to left: women’s rights, gay rights, censorship.

      But I agree re: the Dems vs GOP on their wings. There’s no serious left within the Dems, and the party doesn’t take them seriously. If we consider the Tea Party to represent a right within the GOP, the Republicans take that movement *enormously* seriously.

    3. Bryan,

      When people say the US has moved Left or Right, it’s usually understand that this refers to the overall trend. Individual factors can move either way.

      In the US various cultural trends have moved to the left — almost always trends that benefit the 1%, or to which they’re indifferent. Feminism boosts the economy (more workers). Gay rights, etc — the 1% does not care who screws who, or how. Until the Roman Catholic Church got interested, nobody cared what the peasants did or how they lived.

    1. Bryan,

      “Well, the recovery is largely a “recovery” for a great number of people.”

      Yes, that’s what makes it a recovery. Not a great recovery, or even an average recovery. Certainly not a broad recovery (i.e., pulling up almost everyone). But directionally it is a recovery. Better than stagnation or decline.

    2. I agree on the “Better than stagnation or decline” aspect, but am not sure about the word “recovery.” We’ve seen certain certain sectors rebound, like FIRE, but compensation remains suppressed for the majority of us.
      “Transition” might be a better term.

    3. Bryan,

      Economic terms have — and must have — precise terms to avoid becoming vague gibberish. “Recovery” and other macroeconomic terms refer to aggregate data. The US has been in a recovery since the trough in early 2009.

      Distributional changes can greatly affect specific groups no matter what the overall changes. These are two different subjects.

    4. Oh, I agree with what the terms mean in mainstream economic discourse. The US economy isn’t shrinking, and there is some positive GDP activity.

      But I have issues with mainstream economics, for one thing. For another, I fear that we might be seeing a shift into a new economic era which economists aren’t ready to accurately describe. The huge impact of financialization, for one, means a very different economy than one based on manufacturing or trade. The impact of automation (both by robotics and software) suggests another way our economy is mutating into something very news. Science fiction might be a better source of analysis than mainstream economics.

      I could well be wrong. Thomas Piketty’s recent book (appearing in a few weeks in English) argues that what we’re experiencing is actually a return to normal patterns. Piketty thinks the 1935-1970 period was a weird, anomalous blip, which offered extraordinary structures for economic inequality. The Great Compression, in other words, was a strange affair. The rule of the 1%, on the other hand, is how humans normally structure our economy.
      (Not that Piketty thinks this is a good thing. He wants high taxes on financial transactions, among other things, to bring down the imbalance)

    5. Bryan,

      (1) “which economists aren’t ready to accurately describe. ”

      No. They are accurately describing what is happening. Perhaps you are not payig attention.

      (2) “The rule of the 1%, on the other hand, is how humans normally structure our economy.”

      True. But before the democratic revolutions in the US and UK, people said that autocracy was how humans normally structure societies larger than clans. The modern era makes thing possible that were not possible before.

    6. Which economists would you recommend? The field was notoriously caught out by the 2008 crash: not paying enough attention to the financial sector; not taking the shadow economy seriously.

      I follow a bunch of economics, like the Naked Capitalism crew, Robert Reich, Thomas Piketty.

    7. Bryan,

      “The field was notoriously caught out by the 2008 crash: not paying enough attention to the financial sector; not taking the shadow economy seriously.”

      Yes, they were surprised by the depth of the Great Recession. But those were not the reasons why.

      Almost every major downturn in the developed world for two centuries has a banking collapse at the start, or in the early stages. Economists know that well. But economists work with available data; their mockers work with perfect hindsight. In early 2008 we (i.e., almost everybody, including me) thought that the developed nations’ banks were in strong shape. “Strongest ever at the start of a recession” was often heard.

      That proved to be less than accurate, since they collapsed like a house of cards. With them went much of the worlds’ growth: trade finance, construction, etc.

      This is a commonplace. Recessions start with shocks, and predicting the arrival of shocks is beyond the state of the economic art (and might always remain so).

      “I follow a bunch of economics, like the Naked Capitalism crew, Robert Reich, Thomas Piketty.”

      My recommendations:

      1. I suggest not following individual economists.
      2. If you do, stick with mainstream sources. Such as The Economist and New York Times.
      3. Most of the popular ones are of marginal utility, on both Left and Right, as they feature fringe sources providing ideological happiness. Naked Capitalism, Zero Hedge, etc. For people without a solid grounding in economics, they too often mislead.

      For more specific information see Economics can explain events in America and the world; here’s where to find those insights, 12 September 2010

    8. Bryan,

      Follow-up note: the problem with so many popular websites is not that they feature fringe economics. It is that they do not tell readers that the feature fringe economics — or put their views in context vs the mainstream view (except too mock it, often on specious grounds).

      Hence readers receive a misleading view of the world. More broadly, many people today immerse themselves in ideological filtered sources, so that over time their view of the world becomes increasing distorted. They are impoverished because they do not even know of alternative perspectives.

    9. We are at the down slope side of the last Kondratieff wave. Computers and communications. Remember 1975 when microcomputers were toys? I do. I could see the future that year. I joined the Revolution and bought one of those overpriced toys. The new wave has started but it is still too small to affect the economy. What is it? Heck if I know. It is still too small to affect the economy. But it is a sure thing that it has started. When will we know what it is? About 2020 or 2025.

    10. M Simon,

      “last Kondratieff wave.”

      I love these urban legends! These are rorschach tests: with a massive range of starting & end dates, lengths, can causes. With so much data, the imagination has unlimited scope for fun. Note that few use Kondratieff’s original analysis; all that survives is his name and the concept of long waves.

      The Third Industrial Revolution has begun, and as you note we can only guess at its nature. A new wave of automation, certainly. Genetic engineering, probably. AI? Fusion power? Nanotechnology? The Singularity? For more about these things see these posts.

    1. M Simon,

      “The Democrats of that bygone era were radical commies. I should know. I was a radical commie back then.”

      What is the “bygone era” to which you refer? The only dates referred to in this post are 2009 and today.

      If by “bygone era” you mean the 1970s, I was a radical back then also. Working to help the poor, and organize them (I was young, ignorant, and stupid). Few of us were “commies”. Perhaps you mean the 1960s.

    2. M Simon,

      “The Democrats of that bygone era were radical commies. I should know. I was a radical commie back then.”

      What is the “bygone era” to which you refer? The only dates referred to in this post are 2009 and today.

      If by “bygone era” you mean the 1970s, I was a radical back then also. Working to help the poor, and organize them (I was young, ignorant, and stupid). Few of us were “commies”. Perhaps you mean the 1960s.

  2. Rebuilding our education system? Are you daft? That system is built on the premise that every one is educable. That is not true. Only a small percentage of the population is. Maybe 10% if you are a pessimist. Maybe 50% if you are an optimist. But the idea of 100%? Daft. In addition – for those who want it – education is free. The net has the resources. How many avail themselves vs how many just want to play games?

    Learning is hard. It hurts. How many want to go through the pain in the hopes of the pleasure of mastery? Not as many as you think.

    1. M Simon,

      I agree. Where possible, diagnosis precedes treatment. In practice — since in life we seldom have reliable basis in theory — diagnosis is a process of trial and error. In medicine it’s differential diagnosis (see Wikipedia).

      Unfortunately in politics — and political economy — people prefer a combination of inspired guessing and motivated reasoning (see Wikipedia). Hence we get a cacophony and series of poorly conceived quack measures.

      When we decide to think and see more clearly, then reform will become possible for America.

    2. M Simon,

      “That system is built on the premise that every one is educable.”

      So education is a binary state? One is either at the state of a five year old, or educated (at what level? 12th grade, PhD in genetics?). What a weird statement.

      In fact everybody can be educated to some level with a practical level of resources. Education is the exact opposite of a binary condition.

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