Sunday, February 14, 2010

Cutting through the clutter...

I have been struck recently by just how much silly clutter there is in media commentary and within the blogosphere.  While I don't always agree with his "nothing to see here folks" approach I do think the analysis of political scientist Brendan Nyan whose blog I link to on the the right side of this site is well worth reading.
There has been much fuss about the popularity/unpopularity of Barack Obama and whether this is leading to an off-year election debacle.

As Nyan notes:

Back in January, I predicted a rash of process-based explanations of President Obama's declining political fortunes in 2010:
During the next eleven months, it will become increasingly obvious that Democrats face an unfavorable political environment and that President Obama's approval ratings are trending downward. Inside the Beltway, these outcomes will be interpreted as evidence that the Obama administration has made poor strategic choices or that the President isn't "connecting" with the American public. Hundreds of hours will be spent constructing elaborate narratives about how the character, personality, and tactics of the principals in the White House inevitably led them to their current predicament.
...Obama's staff certainly has made mistakes, but I doubt they are the principal cause of the administration's problems. As I've pointed out before, good fundamentals make political strategists look like geniuses and bad fundamentals make the same strategists look like idiots. In other words, staff performance is largely a reflection of the political fundamentals (in particular, the economy), not the cause of a president's success or failure. 
 I think Nyan's right about the central importance of the fundamentals in American politics (I think this works a little differently in Canada). The key issue is what might happen to the economy this year (he seems to assume continuing bad news).  The current downturn is ending but the recovery may be weak.  A normal or stronger than anticipated recovery could produce more positive ratings than currently anticipated for Obama and the Democrats later this year. But his basic message needs to be listened to: Ignore the clutter, concentrate on the important things.