The Corner

The Voters Don’t Like It

From Will Galston:

….Two findings stand out. First, contrary to many predictions, there is no evidence that health reform has become more popular in the six months since its passage. And second, the item about which there is the least controversy among experts and knowledgeable figures in both parties—namely, preventing the global financial system from collapsing—enjoys the least public support of all.

The art of democratic leadership is to mobilize public majorities around measures that promote the general welfare. Judged against that standard, the past two years have been a failure—even if one believes that everything on the Gallup list was necessary and wise.

We will never know whether a different approach would have produced a better result. But a few things are clear:

* The failure of the stimulus to produce a more hopeful job market has cast a pall over everything else.

* The public regards the year spent debating health reform as a diversion from what it thinks should have been a sustained focus on the economy.

* And whatever its economic merits, the failure of the financial rescue to mete out justice to the financial leaders that got us into this mess has outraged the public’s moral sense. Given its composition, the president’s economic team could not have been expected to be especially sensitive to this concern, and it wasn’t. It was the president’s job to ensure that justice was not just done, but seen to be done. The public doesn’t think he did it.

The bottom line: the majority can neither run on its record nor run away from it. Its only hope is to convince the American people that giving power to an opposition party in its angriest and least moderate mood would only make things worse.

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