I've devoted a couple of posts lately to the disparity between what liberals presume the state of public opinion should be in light of facts on the ground and what it appears really to be. You might have thought, first, that, while we're still reeling from the Wall Street-induced financial crisis of 2007-8, ever larger numbers of people must be thinking that they have more to fear from big business than big government. Alas, that appears not to be case. And you might have thought, second, that with unemployment at 8.6% and with Occupy Wall Street and all, that people would be a lot more distressed about growing inequality in the distribution of wealth and income than they appear actually to be.
Something similar seems to be happening with respect to foreign policy as well. Four or five years ago, when occupied Iraq was descending unmistakably into civil war, it seemed safe to say that people across the political spectrum we're beginning to agree that invading Iraq had been a dreadful mistake perpetrated by an administration that didn't know what it was doing. Even a lot of the people who backed the troop surge in late 2007 and early 2008 on the theory that it was too late to turn back seemed to be thinking along these lines. As I recall, most them weren't still putting up much of a fight if you suggested that we'd have been better off trying to contain Saddam going forward than getting rid of him back in 2003.
Who'd have thought that now, when the last troops are finally coming home, that public opinion would be turning back in favor of the Iraq war. It appears, however, that something along those lines is happening. Consider this poll of Americans (as opposed to registered or likely voters), from the Pew Research Center:
Put questions of the intellectual merits of the liberal worldview aside for the time being and concentrate just on its popularity. If you'd have asked me after the 2004 election to design a scenario most likely to enable liberals to score ideological points with respect to both domestic and foreign policy with the American public, I don't think I could have dreamed up anything much better than what we've actually experienced between, say, 2005 and 2009.
Of course, I would have posited a robust economic recovery starting in early 2009 and extending indefinitely into the future. But liberals can't have everything, especially when the economic doldrums we're now experiencing are being felt across the industrialized world to the detriment of center-right and center-left governments alike. I confess that, even had I known how tepid our economic recovery was going to be, it still would never have occurred to me that liberals would be losing this much ideological ground with the American public.