Monday, August 30, 2010

This story, purportedly on what Obama needs to do to win back support has lots of words and, not surprisingly, lots of misdiagnosing the problem...

Spoiler Alert: yes, this is going to come down to looking at confidence... and the extent to which Obama's policies and approaches have driven confidence down.

Supposedly, "one of Obama's biggest challenges has been his reticence about defining a clear agenda and a set of governing principles". This thinking is built around the idea that all would be well if only Obama had done a better job of communicating what he is doing and trying to do.

The problem with that is that it isn't true.

For the sake of argument, let's stipulate that Obama hasn't done a good job of communicating. If this were the case, confidence would be driven up or down by a combination of (1) the substance of what Obama is doing and (2) what Obama's critics are saying about what Obama is doing. As business and consumer confidence is pretty low right now, we can infer that the public either hasn't liked the substance of what Obama has done or they've been swayed by Obama's critics (conversely, if confidence were higher, we could infer that the public liked what Obama is doing and/or was ignoring his critics).

Given that, for the assertion to be true that Obama needed to start communicating to shore up confidence and, by extension, his ratings, one would have to conclude that the public would like what Obama has done and would ignore his critics if only he had spoken up.

This argument doesn't give much credit to the public, as it leads to such silly statements such as 'the public would like Obamacare if only Obama explained it more'... or 'the public would have backed the bailout and stimulus spending if only explained it more'.

No, the problem with Obama isn't that he hasn't done a good job of explaining his policies, it is that his policies make people nervous... and no amount of explaining is going to make people less nervous.