Americans Can't Get No Satisfaction

A recent Gallup poll found an astonishing 91% of Americans who are dissatisfied with the way things are going in the United States.

That’s a pretty sobering number. And if Mr. Gallup had asked me whether I was satisfied or dissatisfied with how things were going in our country, I would probably have to go with the majority in this case. Despite the fact that my personal life couldn’t be better (aside from the fact that I’ve lost so much in my retirement fund that I will have to continue working until I am 106-years-old just to get back even), I understand that things could be a lot better. The White Sox could have taken those bums from Tampa. My Beloved Bears could be undefeated. The Blackhawks could try and actually field a professional hockey team this year.


But these are minor irritants, hardly worth mentioning to such an august personage as Mr. Gallup. So I would probably have to swallow my home team disappointments and go along with the 91% of us who think things are pretty sucky right now in the US of A.

What is their number one reason for feeling that life in America is not all it should be? Well, 69% of respondents said it was the economy that was giving them the vapors about the US.

This is a surprise, right?

No, it isn’t. But what is really mind-boggling is that there were 9% of us who actually think things are pretty hunky-dory right now. Translated into numbers, that’s around 16 million adults who find no cause to stop the party and put on a grumpy face. Sixteen million Americans are so oblivious to what is going on in the world that they probably don’t even know what date it is. Do they know who the president is? Not that it matters. The guy who’s snoozing away in the White House right now sits at a 25% approval rating. How 45 million adults can approve of economic Armageddon is beyond me. I suppose if I was a short-seller in the market these last few weeks I’d be pretty satisfied right now — and happy with the job Bush was doing.

Frankly, I don’t think there’s a connection between the two. The rich may be satisfied with their own situation but they are probably smart enough to figure out there are a lot of things going wrong all of a sudden — especially if they’ve gotten a frantic call or two from their broker or trust manager in the last couple of weeks. Maybe there are people who didn’t understand the question. Perhaps they’re hard of hearing.


Really now, who are these 16 million optimists?

I didn’t have far to go to find some. They are all over the blogosphere commenting on what they really believe is going on in America. To a few of us, this isn’t just a manufactured crisis; it’s a plot — a dastardly plan to torpedo John McCain’s candidacy. The media is in cahoots with the Democrats to suppress all the good news, not to mention burying the polls showing McCain far ahead and George Bush beloved of our countrymen. The economy really isn’t all that bad, Iraq is virtually a paradise of peace and tranquility, who needs health insurance when we’ve got emergency rooms that won’t turn anyone away, and Republicans are going to take back the House and Senate.

I wish I could say that I made all that up but I didn’t. Such comments have appeared on this site from time to time and if you peruse the comment sections on other blogs, you know I write the truth (the bit about health insurance was actually uttered by a GOP House candidate in my district). Denial ain’t just a river in Egypt. And reality these days can be tough to accept, especially if you’re a partisan Republican.

So I would guess that the overwhelming majority of that 9% of us who are satisfied with how things are going in America simply don’t want to accept that we have bitten into a gigantic crap sandwich and we’ll be on a steady diet of crapola for the foreseeable future.


For the rest of us, however, we must proceed with the way things are. And if there is one constant in the polls since this crisis hit, it has been that the American people are hopping mad and looking for someone to blame.

It’s a shame that the fine old practice of tarring and feathering liars, cheats, and charlatans has gone out of practice. The mood most of us are in had Jonah Goldberg pondering the notion that “if there ever has been a moment when reasonable men’s hands itch for the pitchfork, this must surely be it.” Indeed, if I were a Congressman back home politicking this next month, I’d steer clear of pillow and asphalt factories.

Logically, people would be upset at their lawmakers and in one gigantic, unified show of disgust, they would throw all the bums out on their ear. A recent Rasmussen poll found that 60% of us would like to do just that.

Wouldn’t that be a sight to see? Thomas Jefferson would no doubt have been pleased at such a turn of events. The Sage of Monticello realized that the best way to limit corruption in Congress was to overturn the body every once and a while and bring in fresh blood. “A little rebellion now and then is a good thing,” our third president wrote. So is a coat of tar and feathers.

But it won’t happen.

The fact is, people are mad at everybody else’s Congressman but think their own guy is doing alright. This results in an astronomical percentage of incumbents being returned to Washington in the House every two years — an average of 98% since 1980. That number will almost certainly remain the same this election cycle although there are 32 open races that will allow the Democrats to gain a considerable number of seats. Republicans currently hold 26 of those seats and it’s a good bet that many of those districts will switch from red to blue.


The Senate is a different story. Running every six years allows for a sitting senator to make plenty of enemies. But even in the Senate, incumbents have a huge advantage with the ability to raise a lot more money than their putative challenger. This has pushed spending for Senate races into the stratosphere, nearly $17 million per race in the ten largest states.

But even a massive advantage in funding may not help some GOP incumbents. The race to succeed retiring incumbent John Warner in Virginia appears over, with former Democratic governor Mark Warner holding a 25-point lead over his Republican opponent Jim Gilmore. New Hampshire’s John Sununu trails former Governor Jeanne Shaheen badly. Other Republican incumbents like Elizabeth Dole of North Carolina and Saxby Chambliss of Georgia find themselves fighting for their political lives in states that generally vote Republican.

If the electorate isn’t in a mood to throw all the rascals out, perhaps the least they feel they can do is throw out Republican rascals. That may be emotionally satisfying for many voters.

At this point, that may be enough for many of them to join the nine percenters in achieving a certain amount of satisfaction at the way things are going in this country.


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