“Conservatives have just flat out won this debate” 

This astonishing admission from Mother Jones’ Kevin Drum has not gotten nearly enough attention. Defending Obama’s negotiation performance in the debt limit debate Drum writes:

But no matter how many times we try to kid ourselves with one poll result or another, liberals just don’t have that advantage. The public is mostly in favor of raising taxes on the rich — though I suspect its support is pretty soft — but on the bigger issues they mostly aren’t on our side. They think deficits are bad, they don’t trust Keynesian economics, they don’t want a higher IRS bill (who does, after all?), and they believe the federal government is spending too much on stuff they don’t really understand. Conservatives have just flat out won this debate in recent decades, and until that changes we’re not going to be able to make much progress.

Drum’s right. Just look at this Bloomberg poll from last month:

  • 55% believe “spending cuts and tax cuts” are the most likely policies to be successful in growing the U.S. economy and creating jobs.
  • 65% believe “the size of the federal deficit makes the economy unstable.”
  • 52% believe “uncertainty about new government regulations and taxes is discouraging companies from hiring.”

On the other hand:

  • Only 17% believe “government needs to spend more to stimulate the economy.”
  • Only 35% believe the unemployment rate is still high because “government is cutting spending, which hurts jobs.”

Hurricane Katrina, Harriet Miers, and amnesty sent the Bush administration into a tailspin that spurred a Democratic resurgence in 2006 and ensured any Democrat could have crushed the Republican nominee in 2008. Democrats misinterpreted Obama’s victory as the beginning of a new progressive era. It wasn’t. It was just the end of the Bush/Rove Big Government conservatism coalition.

The failure of Big Government conservatism created a window for Obama to expand the size and scope of the federal government even further. And he has taken full advantage of the opportunity. But the American public has always been skeptical of Big Government. And the economic records of Bush and Obama are only reaffirming that skepticism. Hard to see how liberals could possibly turn these perceptions around.

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