July 30, 2011

A voter disconnect on Democrats

Stan Greenberg, currently partnering with James Carville and a former Bill Clinton presidential pollster, explains what many of us already know. Voters don't trust Democrats in multiple ways.

He notes that Democratic leadership has often been associated with [relatively] better income equality, employment. etc. But ...
There is a reason, however, that many voters in the developed world are turning away from Democrats, Socialists, liberals and progressives. ...

I see clearly that voters feel ever more estranged from government — and that they associate Democrats with government. If Democrats are going to be encumbered by that link, they need to change voters’ feelings about government. They can recite their good plans as a mantra and raise their voices as if they had not been heard, but voters will not listen to them if government is disreputable.

Oddly, many voters prefer the policies of Democrats to the policies of Republicans. They just don’t trust the Democrats to carry out those promises.
There's two issues here, and both are partially PR related. The first is that many people don't realize how liberal their own desires are. The second is that many people believe Democrats can't run government well, or in a way that seems well to them as individuals. This is related to the first issue.

In my opinion, it too is in part a casuality of Vietnam. Carter compounded it, largely not his fault, but with the Iranian hostage situation and the not-true "malaise." Then, when Reagan asked, "what has government done for you lately," the Democrats didn't have good spokespeople. Finally Bill-airy's botched, over-bureaucratic healthcare ideas were the last straw. Since then, Democrats have defined government efficiency on GOP terms.

Add in the shaky economy that right now seems to contribute to cynicism about life in general, then they won't believe in government as much. OR at least the current state of it.

Greenberg partially addresses this.
If they are to win trust, and votes, Democrats must show they are as determined as the Tea Party movement to change the rules of the game. In our surveys and media work for Bill Clinton’s 1992 campaign, we found that only if people thought a candidate was going to change government in fundamental ways — starting with welfare and reinventing government — would they give permission to spend their money.
Unfortunately, PR cuts both ways. A fair amount of Clinton's change "wasn't," and a fair amount of what was, wasn't good.

Greenberg concludes with laundry list that's relatively mild, but to the left, by and large, and even several degrees to the left, of Barack Obama. Namely, it challenges his neoliberalism on unfettered free trade and the mythic powers of higher education.

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