Monday, January 31, 2005

Time for talk: Bush's triumph of marketing over dialogue

Deborah Tannen: 'Time for talk: Bush's triumph of marketing over dialogue'
Posted on Monday, January 31 @ 10:11:26 EST
The triumph of marketing over dialogue results in a president leading much of the nation where it doesn't want to go
By Deborah Tannen, Newsday
We keep hearing about how polarized Americans have become, but polls reveal impressive agreement among a majority of us with regard to the major issues facing the country. What is surprising is that the majority opinion differs starkly from the policies propounded and pursued by the party and the candidate that the recent election put into office.
A Los Angeles Times poll found recently that many Americans (between 52 and 69 percent, depending on the issue) are skeptical about President George W. Bush's proposed changes to Social Security, believe that the Iraq war has been badly mismanaged and do not want the president's tax cuts made permanent if it would worsen the deficit (which it would). Sixty percent say they believe that improving the country's infrastructure would do more to stimulate the economy than tax cuts. The Times reports that "an overwhelming majority of Americans believes Washington is unlikely to make much progress on the country's key problems."
And what of the "values" vote that we are told separates Americans on the issues of gay marriage and abortion rights? A Gallup poll dispels this notion, too. When asked to rate the importance of 18 issues facing the country, a majority placed these two "values" issues at the bottom (16 percent and 19 percent respectively). Even more striking, a CBS/New York Times poll finds that only 22 percent of respondents nationwide believe that abortion should be illegal.
How can there be such a disjunction between the positions a majority hold on the issues and the way a majority voted, three months after a presidential election that aroused more passion than any in memory, in which basic questions about the direction of the country were at stake?
I think the answer has something to do with a failure of public discourse. The campaign aroused a lot of passion, but not a lot of discussion of the policies that would result if one or the other candidate was elected, nor of the effect these policies would have on citizens' lives....