The jobs report on Friday was bad, as David Howell analyzed here. This immediately was interpreted across the board as good news for Mitt Romney and his party, bad news for President Obama and his. It’s the economy stupid, and bad news about employment means that Obama’s chance for reelection has declined precipitously. And things are worse then that. It’s now or never. It is in the summer that the public’s perception of the economy is locked in for Election Day. Even if things improve in the fall, there won’t be enough lead-time to change the public’s perception.
I know that this is based on solid evidence. Considerable scholarly research has demonstrated the strong correlation between the state of the economy and election results. But the way this research has been directly applied in daily political commentary is troubling, especially because it can become a political factor itself. As the “Thomas Theorem” posits: If people define situations as real, they are real in their consequences. I add, especially when they are doing the defining on television.
This concerns me as a scholar and as a partisan. As a scholar, I worry about the philosophic anthropology of this. The voting public is being depicted as simpletons, not capable of critical thought, of the most basic examination of the facts. There is a kind of economic determinism involved and the determinism is quite mechanical. People vote their pocketbooks and they don’t think critically about it. They don’t wonder about the causes of their economic woes and just vote the bums out. It amazes me how in the same broadcasts talking heads suggest both that the job numbers are a result of long-term trends beyond the control of the President and that Obama’s chances of victory have greatly diminished because of the state of the economy as indicated by the latest job report. They propose a simple Pavlovian stimulus and response vision of voters, . . .
Read more: It’s More Than the Economy, Stupid