The Obama presidency is in free fall. The damage to liberalism is likely to last a while. The big question is whether conservatives, given another chance, can govern effectively to rein in the federal government as it needs to be. The Bush years were a disappointment on this score.
But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. Obama is rapidly turning Americans from “hope and change” to “nope, and change it back, please.” The first thing to take in is Gallup’s poll on health care out yesterday. For decades, a steady majority of Americans has said they support universal health care coverage from the government. Gallup’s form of the question is: “Do you think it is the responsibility of the federal government to make sure all Americans have health care coverage, or is that not the responsibility of the federal government?”
The chart below shows that the long-term majority has vanished, and now a majority say it is not the federal government’s role to secure universal health care. (Other recent polls show that a majority now think Republicans would be a better job on health care than Democrats. Right now that’s a very low bar to clear. Michael Barone has more on this here.)
Second, the Washington Post’s Monkey Cage blog (an overlooked site written chiefly by academic political scientists) reports that overall the nation is swinging sharply in a conservative direction. Larry Bartels of Vanderbilt University draws our attention to the public opinion research of James Stimson of the University of Minnesota, who finds that “the American public in 2012 was more conservative than at any point since 1952.” The chart below shows the trend Stimson finds.
For example, Obama’s election in 2008 was hailed as the advent of “The New Liberal Order” and cited as evidence that “liberal views have re-emerged with a vengeance.” His reelection in 2012 was even more improbably described as “the most decisive mandate for an assertive, progressive governing model in well over a generation.” In reality, Stimson’s data show, the public was already more conservative than usual in 2008, and a good deal more conservative by 2012.
This elicits the question again of why Romney lost, which Bartels doesn’t address. The usual reasons of a suboptimal candidate and a campaign that failed at important margins probably explain it more than an error on the Bartels-Stimson analysis here, and underscores the importance of getting good candidates (at all levels) in 2016.
P.S. I believe Bartels is a conventional academic liberal, but from the comments on the Monkey Cage blog, you’d think he’s a Koch brothers spokesman. Shows how deep runs the instinct for denial among the liberals who mostly read the Post.