I am going to ask a rhetorical question. When was the last time you saw a positive political cartoon for Obama?
It is not just Obama’s problem. How many positive cartoons did you see for George W. Bush after 2003?
For that matter, how many positive cartoons did you see for Bill Clinton? How many political cartoonists came to Clinton’s defense during the Lewinsky scandal?
There is a pattern here. The pattern is this: with respect to the public media, criticism of the President is far more likely than support, article by article, cartoon by cartoon. The editorial pages of the mainstream newspapers may come to the defense of a President, but if you read the articles, what sells is negativity.
Politicians face this reality in the national media: “If it bleeds, it leads.” Bad news usually gets priority over good news. The only systematic exception was the website, HappyNews.com. A friend of mine created that website years ago, but he never found a way to make any money with it. The last posting was on October 15, 2013. Happy news has ended.
Just ask Obama.
Beginning in 1922, there was a humor magazine in the Soviet Union with this title: Krokodil. It allowed limited criticism of lower echelons of the government, but only from the point of view of humor. Lenin understood that there is a dark side of Russian humor, and he knew that it was a threat to his regime. Stalin understood this equally well. The rulers understood that there had to be an outlet for this kind of dark humor. They controlled it. They placed limits on it. But they did not attempt to suppress it entirely. They knew better. Even in the Gulag, there was humor. Example:
How long are you in for?Twenty years.
What did you do?
Nonsense. The sentence for nothing is only ten years.
In the Soviet Union, underground literature continued to circulate, and as the technology of digital reproduction grew better, more of got circulated. (The fundamental law of economics is this: “When the price falls, more is demanded.”) This was called samizdat. It helped undermine the Soviet Union. It took decades to do it, but finally the government’s legitimacy disappeared.
Today, Facebook specifically and the Internet generally are means of ridiculing the government, but the government has no control over it. The cost of doing this is essentially zero. The marginal cost of posting a negative cartoon is vastly outweighed by the marginal returns of sticking it to the government. This is not going to end.
The Rasmussen polling firm released some startling figures.
Thirty-seven percent (37%) of Likely U.S. Voters now fear the federal government, according to a new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey. Forty-seven percent (47%) do not, but another 17% are not sure.Perhaps in part that’s because 54% consider the federal government today a threat to individual liberty rather than a protector. Just 22% see the government as a protector of individual rights, and that’s down from 30% last November. Slightly more (24%) are now undecided..
As recently as December 2012, voters were evenly divided on this question: 45% said the federal government was a protector of individual rights, while 46% described it as a threat to those rights.
I am rarely impressed by polls, because I know how the pollsters can structure the questions to affect the outcome. But when the same firm asks the same question, and the results are significantly different, I pay attention. Something fundamental may be changing.
As percentage changes, these are remarkable. We are seeing a fundamental re-thinking of the federal government by the American public. The question is this: why?
(For the rest of my article, click the link.)