A new poll by AP-Ipsos reveals that American optimism is at a new low: national satisfaction has dropped by half since 2003, and only 25 percent of those surveyed say things in America are going well.
Most of the discontent, naturally, has to do with the Iraq war and with the president. And, expectedly, the greatest discontent is found among women and minorities: only one in five think the country is on the right track. But even men and whites have hit a near-record level of dissatisfaction: less than one-third of them are happy with the way things are going.
Of those unhappy ones, one-third blamed the war and one-fourth blamed poor leadership. Only nine percent were aggrieved over the economy, eight percent were distressed over a loss of moral values, and five percent were merely upset over gasoline prices.
The most satisfied people were white Republican men: 52 percent said the country was heading in the right direction. (Only a third of white Republican women agreed! Are they unhappy with their sex lives, or what?)
Overall, this doleful picture may give some hope to the Democrats. If the mood persists over the next 18 months, they might ride into the White House on a wave of discontent. But a lot could happen between now and then. Human nature being what it is, our memories are short and we push the unpleasant things to the back of our brains. The unpalatable gets swallowed or spat out, quickly replaced by a spoonful of sugar, or a well-timed taste of honey.
Imagine, if you will, a total pullout from Iraq by the summer of 2008 -- just in time for a pre-election sigh of relief. Imagine even a minor shift -- gas prices falling below $2 a gallon -- and euphoria hits the road again.
What is truly astounding about this poll is the fact that it has taken so long for displeasure to mount. We are in the fifth year of a hopeless, senseless, horrible war and people are just waking up from the nightmare. We have witnessed government lies and corruption during this entire administration, and our sleepy citizens are just now rubbing their eyes.
Talk about jet lag! This is a lag in the collective unconscious. Has it been due to the soporific news reporting, to the numbing jumble of television entertainment, to the tranquilizing effect of super-size Smoothies?
They've all played a part, I suppose. But at the core there is a pernicious, persistent tendency to deny the reality, the truth, that is gnawing away like a tapeworm at the bowels of the nation.
Now that so many people seem to be awakening from their slumber, what's next? A cold shower, a hearty breakfast, and a dash to the barricades to demand reform?
Or will these still-drowsy, disgruntled people shut off the alarm, roll over, and go back to sleep?