A Blue State of Mind

Jon Carroll writes in the San Francisco Chronicle:
Visualize a map of the United States, with each state colored according to the approval ratings it gave the president in the latest SurveyUSA, a poll funded by a consortium of media organizations. Those states in which more people approve than disapprove are colored pink (for mildly approve) or orange (for moderately approve). There are no red states, because there are no states in which the president's approval rating tops 60 percent.

But there are deep blue states, oh yes, because there are many states where the president's approval rating is less than 35 percent. I am proud to say that I live in one of those states. Even more disapproving than California is New York. Well, sure, you say: Those are the effete, gay-loving, Christ-hating coastal states. What of the heartland? What of the states that George Bush won in 2004?

Oops, they don't like him either. Missouri, Kansas, Kentucky: all blue. Texas is blue. Iowa is really blue, almost as blue as Illinois. Florida: blue. Colorado: blue. Isn't this fun? If this is not fun for you, move on.

This has been coming for a long time. Reality has not been on the president's side. It seems as if every time one of his aides says that something is true, oh dear, it turns out not to be true. Retrenchment is needed. Statements become inoperative, and are replaced by other statements that are also eventually inoperative. Many people believed in George Bush and were willing to cut him slack. But however much slack he was granted, he somehow needed more. As any 12-year-old boy will tell you, this tactic is eventually self-defeating.

Not that this means much of anything in electoral terms. Most seats in the House are safe because they're designed to be safe. Incumbents win. In my district, no one has a shot of beating Barbara Lee. Most districts are like that. Senators are not quite so automatic, but they have six-year terms, so change comes slowly. George Bush's poll numbers in November 2005 are not significant, except for the feeling of calm engendered by the blue sweep across the continent.

What is worrisome is that the president seems to be getting the wrong message from the declining poll numbers. The Founding Fathers thought that fear of losing elections would be a powerful goad to moderation. But the president can't run again, and he is not by nature reflective.

He believes what he believes, and the exigencies of the moment will not sway him. That would be an admirable trait, except that he is apparently now almost entirely surrounded by people who lie to him, so what he believes is not, alas, true. We have not turned the corner in Iraq; there is no corner to turn. Global warming is more than just a theory, however convenient it would be if that weren't true. Saying that no child will be left behind is not the same thing as leaving no child behind.

Thirteen million children in the United States are malnourished. They are by definition behind.