Trying to think about American Public Opinion.

OK, I’ll grant you that “trying” isn’t the same thing as “succeeding.”

What do people think about military intervention in the Middle East?

Couple of things to think about.

First, the war in Iraq, much more than the war in Afghanistan, has put Americans off of military intervention. No, they don’t particularly want to have the reality shoved up their nose by outraged liberal moralists. (See: War Movies: American Sniper.) That doesn’t mean that they are willing to let the government off the leash again. President Obama’s disastrous intervention in Libya—“you set fire to it, then walk away while it burns” as one Baltimore cop told Jimmy McNulty in “The Wire”—just showed people that Democrats can’t be trusted any more than the Republicans. The advantage to air-strikes is that they might do a lot of damage—especially with good intelligence and targeting—but they aren’t likely to get many Americans killed. That’s what Americans are willing to tolerate.

Second, Republicans are ‘realists” who favor blowing up things. Look at John McCain. It’s his solution to everything that crosses his line of sight. God help us if he ever becomes Secretary of Health and Human Services. Democrats are toeing the party line and backing their president. No matter how much Obama’s actions resemble those of George W. Bush. Neither party is actually thinking. In contrast, Independents appear most skeptical of all. They’re used to dis-believing the bumper-stickers of both parties. Look at climate-change, where they fall squarely in the middle. The US—and everyone else—is likely to get a bad policy out-come from bad political in-puts. (See: Yemen Again.)


What do people think about opportunity in America?

Couple of things to think about here as well.

First, you can take the extreme views as the most unequivocal expression of the core beliefs of the two parties. Republicans believe that personal responsibility is a cure-all. Democrats believe that a paternalist state is a cure-all. Both probably are wrong, but neither is entirely wrong, just as neither is entirely right. One tricky part is where exactly to draw the line. Neither party seems to be making much effort to figure out a philosophy on this matter. Meanwhile, lots of middle-class Americans want to stick it to rich Americans while paying less in taxes themselves. A second issue is to wonder about the overlap between the extreme Republican view (let people swim for it) and the extreme Democrat view (nobody is responsible for their own actions): no discriminating public policy, just ineffective alternatives.

Second, lots of Americans believe that the game is rigged in favor of the well-off, including many well-off people (who ought to know). On the other hand, and this should disturb any “progressive person,” maybe a big chunk of the people who think that America is basically fair to people come from the poor people-of-color who don’t vote. Just as many well-off people appear to think the game is rigged in their favor, perhaps many poor people think that their own actions had a large role in their fate. What is both groups are correct?

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