What a Crisis of Legitimacy Looks Like

For all the political ferment taking place right now, I think a lot of the talk about it is overblown. The striking thing about American politics right now, if you ask me, is how relatively high Barack Obama’s job approval numbers are given the depth of the economic problems we’re in. Check out, by contrast, how rapidly people have soured on the new government in Japan:

japanpoll 1

Meanwhile, in both Pennsylvania and Arkansas we’re faced with the odd spectacle of Obama-backed incumbents who risk being toppled by challengers who are essentially promising to show more fealty to the Obama agenda.

Which is just to say that notions about populist uprisings and such need to be relativized to something or other. We saw massive failures of governance leading up to the crisis, and though I think the policy response has been a good deal better starting in the fall of 2008 any policy response that ends up with 10 percent unemployment has obviously fallen short. And yet in the face of that, Americans are pretty supportive of Obama and apparently want Democrats to keep congress.