No Growing Faith in the Economy, and How This Will Affect the Presidential Election

Life is subjective.  That’s to say that if you polled a big enough sample of people on, say, what color the sky is, you’ll have a majority of folks saying that the sky is blue, but you’ll also come across maybe a respectable number of people who will say the sky is gray because the weather is overcast, you’ll have a few people who are trying to be cute and claim the sky is azure, or cornflower, and you’ll have possibly one or two people who claim the sky is chartreuse or vermilion.

That’s just the way things are; life exists on a gaussian curve.

As a result, you rarely ever find any poll anywhere that shows 100% of respondants agreeing on anything.  Opinions are typically so varied that in order to do pull off the 100% response pool, one would typically have to have a relatively small sampling size, and that sample would have to be exceptionally well prepped.


The objective reality must be so irrefutable that no opinion, even those outside of rational reason, could counter the nature of the polling question.  This is why it is significant that in a recent ARG poll, 0% of Americans saw the Economy as improving, with a whopping 82% of the population believing that the economy is getting worseWith a sample of over a thousand respondents, it is clear that while not everyone understands in full detail everything that has been going on on Wall Street recently, everyone recognizes that we’re in deep trouble.

Politically, these numbers could prove to be far more daunting for John McCain than any daily tracker or state by state poll released because an electorate that is unanimous in its lack of faith in the economy will put McCain on his heels for the remainder of the election unless one of three things occurs.  The economy could magically repair itself, McCain could effectively dig himself out of a narrative hole wherein he is tied irrevocably to the kinds of policy making that allowed the economic collapse and supports policies that would exacerbate the problem, or another major event could occur that would replace the economy as the leading issue for the election now only a month and a half away.

Ideally, McCain would want to see the debate shifted away from the economy entirely.  Unfortunately for him, the gravity of the events on Wall Street are such that his campaign is not likely to be able to intentionally shift the debate.  No amount of campaign ads and surrogate deployment will get people’s minds off of economic issues as long as major headlines are dedicated to the collapse of major institutions and the $700 billion bailout being debated in DC.  The only thing that could forcefully shift the debate away from the economy would be something more catastrophic occuring outside of its realm–something on the order of a terrorist attack on American soil.

Given that the McCain campaign can’t possible influence something of this nature (and if they could or did, it would be grossly treasonous), there’s little to dwell upon here.

As for the economy magically healing itself, this too seems unlikely.  I don’t pretend to understand how things work on Wall Street all that well, but John Cole has a somewhat compelling argument that we may not have seen the end of major, headline getting, collapses yet:

The worst thing about this financial meltdown is the sheer volume of issues that I do not understand, and probably never will understand. Like, for example, the request of Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs to become Bank Holding Companies. Again, I do not understand the intricacies, but for an acknowledged financial idiot like me, the chain of events looks like this:

1.) Massive widespread panic on the markets last week. Several of the “immortals” fail.
2.) Goldman and MS get caught up in it, despite having good earnings reports.
3.) Short-sellers prey on MS and Goldman.
4.) Short-selling stopped, ginormous bailout proposed.
5.) MS and Goldman, under the cover of the short-selling ban, rush to change their status so they do not go down.

While expertise may be lacking on both mine and Cole’s behalf, the logic seems fairly sound, and I think it far more likely that something else should collapse as opposed to the alternative.  Further, the only medicine that seems to be offered is a bitter medicine that few outside of the major institutions are particularly happy with.  After having Republicans spout off about personal responsibility, the major bailout appears to favor absolving corporate institutions of their personal responsibility at cost to the taxpayer.

Shorter; the economy isn’t likely to get better soon, and the steps that will need to be taken to try and fix it are not being positively received at least in the near term.  How this negatively impacts McCain is due to two principle factors.  The first is simple polling; Americans see Democrats generally, and Obama specifically as being better prepared to handle the economy.  The second is that McCain is all too easily tied to both the massive deregulation that many understand as the principle cause of the Wall Street meltdown as well as being far more amicable towards a concept of corporate socialism than his opponent; new populist rhetoric be damned.

Which leads to the only realistic hope that the McCain campaign has at making lemonade out of the very sour lemons tossed its way by the economy; running away from both McCain’s past and present as a key participant in the modern corporate culture that ultimately led to the Wall Street catastrophe in the first place.  The only feasible way of doing this, however, may be the one thing that McCain won’t do; publicly admitting to the error of ideology and taking on a platform that is contrary to his party.

He simply won’t do this, and contrary to the fiery rhetoric he has attempted to employ on the stump, he has failed to land on either a coherent strategy or to effectively walk back his guiding principles of deregulation and unchecked Friedmanism.  This leaves him with pretending to be a crusader against special interests and golden parachuters which, unfortunately for him, actually run his campaign.

And in so doing, he runs the added risk of having the liar and obfuscating labels even more firmly attached to him.

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