Tuesday, February 16, 2010

In Government We Trust, All Others Pay Cash

Matt Yglesias over at Think Progress makes an interesting point:
"I think there’s a huge tendency among journalists to underrate the extent to which macroeconomic conditions drive everything in politics. For example, John Sides reviews the data and concludes that public trust in government is basically just driven by economic statistics:"

The relationship is striking. The economy explains about 75% of the variance in trust. If you delete 1964, which looks like a potential outlier, the economy still explains 73% of the variance.
Of course the economy is not the only important factor. But it gets far less attention than it deserves when the hand-wringing begins. So, sure, perhaps we can and should tinker with the political process. Clip lobbyists’ wings. Get leaders to make nicey-nicey with the opposite party. But the process is less important than outcomes. More people will trust the government again when times are good, even if government ain’t.
I think this is a potential problem for Democrats.  The American voter has little time or memory for history.  Republicans, time and again, run this country into the ground and get voted out.  Then, when Democrats get things running again and people's pocketbooks begin to fatten, complacency sets in and the Republicans with their corporate sponsors are a shoe-in, since all it takes is a 10% swing in independent voters coupled with a non-voting 10-15% of Democrats who can't believe their vote would be needed to keep the party in power.  

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