I think the more undercovered story in American public life is the broad-based satisfaction with the status quo. Everything you read is about how dissatisfied people are with various institutions, how they think the country’s on the wrong track, how incumbents are dropping like flies, and so forth. The reality, of course, is that the overwhelming majority of members of congress (and state legislators, etc.) are re-elected every year. We saw recently that people think economic conditions in their city are pretty good. It’s well known that people believe their local schools are good. And a Post poll today confirms that even though people claim to think the health care system needs reform, they in practice like the health care they have and hate efforts to change things.
My colleague John Dickerson has a great piece up about Mitt Romney’s amazing aversion to saying what he would actually do as president, which I think is a symptom of this broader trend of mass public satisfaction.
Everyone is dead-set against the status quo and absolutely demands that politicians promise big changes and a desire to shake things up. But actually everyone is fundamentally opposed to anything in their own lives actually changing. So support for “change” melts away whenever you spell things out. We can all agree that “the tax code” is “too complicated” and needs to be made “simpler” but nobody actually wants to scrap any deductions any more than they want their local school to change, their company’s health care plan to change, or anything else.