Sunday, May 22, 2005

Buyer's remorse

President Bush's approval ratings, as they have for several months, continue to fall. A recent survey by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press found that Bush's overall job approval rating has plummeted to 43 percent. Even in Alabama, which was solidly in the Republican column in the fall, Bush's job approval rating has fallen by 10 percentage points in the last year.

Why the decline? Much of it likely is attributable to buyer's remorse from independents who, believing Bush was the lesser of two evils, reluctantly voted for him in November but who dislike what they have seen since then.

A recent Gallup poll found that 57 percent of Americans now think the Iraq war wasn't worth fighting. Only 29 percent like how Bush is dealing with Social Security. And a full 82 percent of Americans disliked how Republicans turned the Terri Schiavo situation into a circus. The GOP-led showdown over the nuclear option, which almost two-thirds of Americans oppose, just adds fuel to the fire.

For the last few months, Bush has made the mistake of buying into his own hype, of believing that 51 percent of the vote truly was a national mandate rather than a narrow victory and a call for compromise. A few months into his second term, the reality of what happened in November is creeping back to the surface.


Blogger Colin said...

Yeah, and the really bad news is Democrats have continued to fail to capitalize on slumping figures.

11:42 PM  
Blogger Jen said...

I think the well is hopelessly poisoned. Even if a Democrat won the presidency in 2008, the country would not unite. I think we need a true outsider, a real independent not influenced by either party to emerge and give people a reason to be optimisitic about government again and to tone down the partisan beast. Of course, the parties would never allow it, but I think a savvy businessman with a lot of money and influendce (let's hope it's not Rupert Murdoch; Bill Gates or Warren Buffet, maybe?) can fund a candidate and pull it off

9:53 AM  
Blogger King Cockfight said...

Jen, last time I checked Rupert Murdoch was born in Australia and unless that Do It For Arnold group picks up support, I think that still means he can't run for president.


12:19 PM  
Blogger Susan of LocalTint said...

"but I think a savvy businessman... (let's hope it's not Rupert Murdoch; Bill Gates or Warren Buffet, maybe?) can fund a candidate and pull it off"

I thought Jen was saying one of these guys could fund a candidate like the one she's describing.

12:31 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think we are seeing a second term President pushing his agenda because
(a) he doesn' have to run again), (b) there is at this point no serious democrat candidate to contend for 2008, and (c) his party has the majority in Congress. Murdoch, Gates and Buffet have clearly known party preferences. If you are suggesting that wealthy businessmen finance candiates, you are suggesting nothing new: this is what the current system is built around.

5:33 PM  
Anonymous Aaron said...

At your suggestion, I thought I ought to post this on you site too.

First off, thanks for visiting my class blog. It's flattering, albeit a little big freaky that you tracked me down. You should know my blogging experience is all but a few weeks old and when I say blogger I am referring to anybody who posts on a blog. Since you are not a member of this class, I can forgive you not knowing that this reference is understood by those I am writing to; it is not worth your time taking issue over that.

A blogger on your site wrote, " I think we need a true outsider, a real independent not influenced by either party...I think a savvy businessman with a lot of money and influence (let's hope it's not Rupert Murdoch; Bill Gates or Warren Buffet, maybe?) can fund a candidate and pull it off." These three guys have contributed, either themselves or through the companies they own, loads of money to specific candidates because for personal and business reasons they need to influence parties. But the blogger has failed to understand that anybody who funds a candidate, wealthy or otherwise, is looking to for political influence, especially businessmen. Simply funding a candidate is exerting influence; even Ralph Nadar and Howard Dean are influenced by their monitary supporters. If the blogger wants a novel candidate she is more likely to get one through massive campaign finance reform or simply a nationalization of campaign funding. This is an uneducated posting, and saying so is not a blanket statement.

America is the land of the free and we are all allowed to speak our minds. What I said, and perhaps less eloquently then I hope to be now, is that allowing everyone to speak their minds yields opportunities well beyond what mass media can offer for misinformation to be widely distributed. If misinformation works its way up the media food chain from a blog to water cooler talk then it receives credibility and most people are not well enough informed to determine what's crap and what's not. I believe that possibility could have devastating effects on the wisdom of the public.

True, free speech and voting rights are not conditioned on having a political science degree (though it has been suggested in class by someone who is not me). But I do not believe having shoes with arch support will stop my knees from hurting when I run, but my doctor told me so, he has an MD, so I wear shoes with arch support. I think people need to listen to the experts before they formulate their opinions, and blogs rarely provide that (as do most mass media sources, but that was the first half of the class). Guess what? My knees do not hurt anymore.

1:48 AM  
Blogger Alabamian said...

Don't be too freaked out, Aaron. I use Site Meter and from time to time, I like to check out some of the sites that send traffic my way.

I forgive you for the confusion over the term "blogger," but you should know that "blogger" usually refers only to the site administrator(s). "Commenter" or something similar would be more precise.

I agree that more corporate funding isn't the best way to find an outside-the-box candidate, but I don't think it's fair to call someone uneducated simply because she brainstorms an idea with which you disagree.

Misinformation can spread much more quickly in mass media than on blogs; the hope, of course, is that mass media use their superior reporting and fact-checking resources to ensure accuracy. Yes, blogs are a growing medium, but they're a very small, mostly informal one. With the exception of a select few bloggers, I don't think people give much more credence to what they read on a blog than to what they hear from their neighbor.

"Allowing opportunities for everyone to speak their minds" is what free speech is all about; sadly, human fallibility ensures that a lot of what is said won't be entirely accurate. False gossip and rumors spread long before the days of the Internet, so blogs aren't the underlying problem.

It'd certainly be nice if people would listen to political experts in formulating their political opinions, but freedom means allowing people to choose their interests, and some voters just don't care about the nuts and bolts of politics. Because we're all in this together, the political scientist's vote shouldn't count more than the artist's, nor should the janitor have less of a right to voice his political opinions than the senator.

The marketplace of ideas means people can decide for themselves which views are most compelling or trustworthy. The answer to what one sees as misguided opinions is not to suppress them; the answer is to respond with more free speech.

Thanks again for stopping by, and feel free to jump in on any discussions that interest you in the future.

3:40 AM  
Anonymous Aaron said...

Trent Lott's comment to Strom Thurman that the country would be better today if he had made President was "exposed" by a blogger and resulted in Lott's removal from Senate Majority Leader. Indeed, it was his own party that led the charge to remove him (they wanted to get past the conservative stigma that haunts a good portion of Republicans).
Congressman Lott made a comment to a friend at his friends birthday party and the next thing he knows he's loosing his position as one of the most powerful Republicans in the country.

While Lott's comment was less then moral, it was a comment made off the record to a friend; and with a bunch of press lurking around, it was a blogger that broke the "news." The press, having heard comments like this before, felt that it was not a news worthy comment. Regardless of whether the comment was news worthy or not, the press new it was off record and not directed at them; they knew it was not right (moral) to report it. They knew to respect the privacy of friends conversing at a social gathering. The blogger did not, and that is less excusable then the comment. If you do not play by the rules then your product is earned immorally (same thing as illegal search and seizures).

Blogs are not always the factory of rumors and gossip, but they help to proliferate the spread of information (Lott and the VP of CNN, for example), and with a rapidly growing number of Americans reading and posting blogs, that spread will increase exponentially. It is the lack of standards that prove problematic.

If bloggers continue to publish whatever they want, that grey line between on and off the record will erode into a black line that separates private life (in the house and car) from public life (out of the house and car). As it is, politicians are constantly in bunker mode. Image how reclusive they will have to be if the line switches from grey to black.

I hope that bloggers will over time develop their own standards and govern themselves while looking down upon those who fail to blog without the proper respect for the rules. If they do not you can bet the medium will lose its legitimacy.

Without standards, blogs will continue to publish" whatever they want and visitors will continue to comment. I think you do a good job with your blog of providing accurate information, but many do not. Mass media, while not always truthful, has editors and standards that are for the most part used. Their sources are legit and expert because they have to be. Blog sources do not. This is problematic in principle and in practice.

Furthermore, the people who comment are not bound by any standards and are able to post at will because they are not responsible for what they say. The people who post comments scare me more then the bloggers do, so it is the medium that scares me the most.

People can decide for themselves, but if their marketplace is influenced by people who post suggestions of how to fix the something by restating how that something already works, then I fear for the diversity of the marketplace.

2:23 AM  
Blogger Alabamian said...

You're right that blogging could make public officials even edgier, because they never can tell if the acquaintance to whom they privately make a passing remark is a blogger in disguise. The Lott situation is a bad example of that phenomenon, though. His comments at Strom Thurmond's birthday party were aired live on C-SPAN, so he knew he was on the record.

Mainstream media outlets largely set their own ethical boundaries, and bloggers will have to do the same thing. Americans' broad free-speech rights mean some of that protected speech will be misleading or poorly reasoned, but the cream usually will rise to the top. As for commenters, they're still legally responsible for what they say, so they aren't entirely without limits.

1:15 AM  

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