No Backlash Yet


Better than expected

Still think President Barack Obama is polarizing America and stoking a great backlash to his liberal policies? Think that tea parties and frustrations over bailouts will unleash a voter revolt in 2010?

It doesn’t look that way yet. In fact, such a backlash would be a political bootlegger’s turn on current trends. We’ve more than a year to go, but waiting for the Democrats to implode isn’t looking like a good option.

Anybody who read this space back during the election knows I’m no Obama bobby-soxer. I’m not very thrilled with his policies either. I’ll be less thrilled when it’s General Motors’ turn to be reorganized at taxpayer expense. I’m also no fan of long-term forecasts.

However, I can read polls. I can also follow the trend lines at the excellent Web site They compare and combine poll data when that’s possible. This makes their results more valid than any one particular poll. These results are particularly valid when you have a simple question like “Is the country on the right track?” which is asked pretty much the same way in a whole lot of polls.

About 84 percent of Americans polled thought the country was on the wrong track in October. That is down to 46.6 percent now and dropping steeply. We’re talking about what’s likely to be a 40 percent drop by the time this column appears.

At the same time, belief that the country is on the right track has climbed to 45.6 percent.

Those are still bleak numbers, but the degree of improvement is remarkable.

Obama can be criticized for being too political, for making decisions based on polls and for policies that are more polished presentation than substance. However, when “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself,” nobody can deny that he makes people feel better.

Now I can be criticized here for giving Obama all the credit. Criticize away. We live in an age when shedding 540,000 U.S. jobs in a month is considered good news because that’s less than we expected. We may be nearing the bottom, but we’re not there yet. We’re still falling, yet there’s a growing sense we’re going in the right direction. That’s something I can’t attribute to Congress.

Even more impressive is the fact that Obama’s job approval is climbing again.

He’s at 62.7 approval, according to Pollster. Even Rasmussen, the pollster of last resort for Republicans, gives him 58 percent approval.

His unfavorable rating is down sharply from the day of his election. He’s at 25.3 percent now compared to about 20 percent on his inauguration and less than 35 percent at the height of the election, just before the banking crisis hit.

Yeah, but 2010 is a mid-term election. What really matters is Congressional approval. OK. Let’s look at that.

Disapproval of Congress is down from about 74 percent on Election Day and 68 percent on Inauguration Day to 58.5 percent today. Congressional approval is leveling off but has climbed from less than 25 percent in February to 31.8 percent. Rasmussen is wildly off track from other polls, showing 18 percent approval and 80 percent disapproval.

Frankly, the only visible thing that can turn around numbers like these would be a major terrorist attack in the United States and successful — even if inaccurate — blaming of the president for his renunciation of torture.

Don’t bank on it.

If you believe as I do that tortured people tell you what you want to hear, that would explain a lot. For instance, it would explain our counterintelligence agencies’ belief in extensive terrorist networks in the nation and our inability to find them.

John Mueller, professor of political science at Ohio State University, writes in the latest issue of Foreign Affairs ( “In 2002, U.S. intelligence reports asserted that the number of trained al- Qaida operatives in the United States was between 2,000 and 5,000, and FBI Director Robert Mueller assured a Senate committee that al-Qaida had ‘developed a support infrastructure’ in the country … .’ However, after years of well funded sleuthing, the FBI and other investigative agencies have been unable to uncover a single true al-Qaida sleeper cell or operative within the country.”

Either we’re chasing terrorists that aren’t here, or our intelligence forces are stunningly incompetent at catching them. There is no third way.

Categories: Features