The new Gallup Poll is showing that only 22 percent of the country thinks things are going in the right direction. What explains this? Political dissatisfaction is a big part of it. Washington seems either uninterested or incapable of enacting policies that will help make our lives better (and) more prosperous. The overall sense that we are in a time of great moral decay is also at play. Consider the following points:
1. People are dissatisfied because, by almost any measure, the outlook for the country is quite grim. It now seems clear that we are not returning to what we used to think of as "normal" growth rates any time soon, and our influence in the world continues to weaken by the day. Nevertheless, our elites remain largely committed to the same terrible policies that got us into this mess.
2. People are angry about the economy, and suspicious that the people who run the country don't really care very much about the average American. This is a time that cries out for a leader who can reach the average person. But while President Obama can be very charming, he is clearly no populist. On almost every issue, he goes along with whatever the rich folks on the East Coast and in Silicon Valley want – even if it means lower living standards for the average person.
3. The Obama Administration has looked particularly feckless in August, with a President, who is basically checked out, and events in countries like Egypt rapidly spinning out of control.
4. During 2012, President Obama benefited from the fact that his voters wanted to believe that things were getting better. Now that the election is over, a lot of those people are being a lot more honest about how bad things are.
5. Of course people don't feel secure – no one can feel secure in an economy where so many people have lost their jobs, and where wages basically never go up. That's why it's a mistake for both Democrats and Republicans to be supporting open-border policies that will allow businesses to use immigrants to drive down wages any further.
6. I think Obama could survive the scandals if the economy were booming. But when the economic news is so grim, everything else looks worse.
7. I think a lot of folks on the left think the country is immoral. (We don't recycle enough, we burn too much fossil fuels, we don't offer free abortion services.) And I think a lot of folks on the right think this country is immoral. (The breakdown of the family, the abortion culture, promiscuity.) We are basically at an impasse on a lot of the moral issues, and some battle-weariness sets in after awhile. Still, if the economy were doing well, those cultural problems wouldn't seem so bad.
8. The tone of the country is a symptom, not a cause. When your leadership is incompetent, and most policy decisions are made by a bi-partisan establishment that doesn't know what it's doing, one would expect the tone of debate within the country to be quite harsh and negative. On the other hand, if the country showed some real improvement, I think you'd see the tone brighten up considerably.