Monday, August 10, 2009

Dept of Revealed Preferences: Populist Anger

Peter Dreier, of The Nation, laments the fact that the Right is taking up a tactic normally associated with the Left: grassroots protest.
In recent years, right-wingers have been more willing to protest, whether their allies were in or out of power. With Obama in the White House and the Democrats in control of Congress, they're exercising their memory muscle for creative dissent--and getting more media coverage than their liberal counterparts.
According to Dreier, the public is on Obama's side, and angry. So why aren't they taking that anger to the streets?

Public opinion polls reveal that Americans are angry about the current economic, healthcare, housing and environmental crises. Polls also document that a significant majority of Americans want the federal government to do something to fix these problems. But history shows that public opinion, on its own, isn't enough to change public policy.

People have to believe not only that things should be different but also that they can be different. Anger has to be mixed with hope. And to be effective politically, that hope has to be mobilized through collective action--in elections, meetings with elected officials, petitions, e-mail campaigns, rallies, demonstrations and even, at times, civil disobedience.

Another answer is that their seeming ambivalence is a revealed preference. When confronted with a poll, it's relatively easy to respond that you're "angry." Taking the time to march in the street, however, imposes real costs.