Fear and 2013

OK.  That is not a very cheerful title for a post during the holidays, but between baking and cooking and family, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking and I think there is a direct connection between what is being reported in the new Washington Post poll and the intransigence of many about instituting any kind of new rules about guns and gun safety as well as the inability of Congressional Republicans to put country over party and negotiate a budget deal.

According to the Post,

A bare 53 percent majority of all Americans are “hopeful” about their lives in 2013; some 44 percent say they are instead more “fearful.” The assessment about what’s in store for the world is even more grim: a record low 40 percent report being hopeful about the next year, with 56 percent saying they are more fearful.

Much of the “fear” is being generated by the failure of Congress to act on any measures related to the budget and so-called “fiscal cliff”, but that fear is also grounded in President Obama’s re-election.  Let’s look at some poll results.Nearly six in 10 are very concerned about the national economy if a budget agreement is not reached soon. Among those with high level concern, 53 percent are fearful about the future.

Not all the perceptions are slipping. Fully 53 percent say that based on their own experiences the economy has begun to recover, a sentiment that’s crept up steadily from 36 percent in November 2011 to a new high point. Still, even among those who see recovery happening, most see it as a weak one.

But what is really shocking is the difference between Democratic and Republican attitudes.

Republicans and Democrats report far different readings on the recovery as well as the hopes for their personal lives. Over seven in 10 Democrats say the economy is beginning to recover, but fewer than half as many Republicans – 35 percent – see the economy making a turnaround.

And this difference really shows up when the chart above is broken down by political party.

So why this stark difference?  The Post observes that Democrats are just more optimistic.

Democrats are far more positive, with 75 percent hopeful about their personal lives, exactly the same as 2008. Even during George W. Bush’s presidency, majorities of Democrats expressed a hopeful outlook. Independents splits about evenly between hope and fear.

In separate questions about the coming year, the public divides narrowly between optimism and pessimism about the state of the economy, the way things are going in the country overall and chances for bipartisan agreement in Washington.

A 55 percent majority are optimistic about the policies Obama will pursue in the coming year, a bit of a comedown from the 68 percent who were optimistic when he was first elected in 2008. The current rating is propped up by 85 percent optimism among Democrats, a point shy of their rating four years ago.

So what does this divide mean?  Do pessimistic people get drawn to the Republican Party and optimistic ones to the Democrats?  I think the answer is yes and that we have to figure out why this is if we are going to get back to some kind of national consensus with government actually functioning again.  This fear is also why so many Republicans are buying guns, opposing even simple measures to insure gun safety, and why so many think that secession is the correct response to Obama’s re-election.  I can’t imagine what it must be like to live in constant fear about the future, fear about change, and fear of people who look or act differently than you.  It can’t be healthy.

So if you are a Republican and reading this, for your own mental and physical health resolve to work on your pessimism and fear next year.  Resolve to learn more facts and to think about them.  I think this will not only help you personally, but it might help end gridlock. 

Maybe looking at some great pictures of Bo, the Obama dog, will help put you in the right frame of mind.  And if you are Democrat look at them because they are wonderful.  (Even to a cat person!)  Here is a sample.

President Obama talks with White House budget chief Jack Lew; at left, Bo waits for the president inside the doorway of the Outer Oval Office.

Peeking out

President Obama talks with White House budget chief Jack Lew; at left, Bo waits for the president inside the doorway of the Outer Oval Office.

(Photo: White House)

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