Can there be political bubbles like financial bubbles?
Financial bubbles, inflated by hopes and dreams, burst when reality negates any possibility that those hopes and dreams will be realized. At that point, sky-high stock or bond or real estate prices come crashing down to earth.
Can the same thing happen in politics? Can a skilled politician, who has become popular with soaring rhetoric and promises, deflate when it starts becoming clear that he is not going to deliver?
Of course, I am thinking about our president. Mitt Romney demonstrated in the first presidential debate that the considerable gap between President Obama's rhetoric and his performance makes him a vulnerable candidate. Yet the president's bubble seems far from bursting.
Romney, in the debate, was aggressive but deferential toward Obama. He was deferential because, despite the poor state of the country after almost four years of the Obama administration, Obama is still a popular president. Recent polling shows his approval remains about 50 percent. At similar stages in the presidencies of the last two presidents voted out after one term, George H.W. Bush and Jimmy Carter, their popularity ratings were in the 30s.
What accounts for Obama's Teflon? How is it that, after almost four years of terrible economic results -- high unemployment, sluggish growth, huge deficits and mounting national debt -- that Obama's persona is not more tarnished?
Shouldn't today's economic facts on the ground be sufficient to puncture the Obama bubble? One part of the answer to this puzzle is the changing demographics of the country. The United States today is a nation that is much less white, much less married, and less traditional than it once was. Each of these trends reflects a rise in constituencies with values supportive of Obama's worldview -- activist government and/or moral relativism.
What was once the exception to the rule in America -- not being white, not being married, not having traditional views on family, sex and abortion -- is now becoming the rule. And these constituencies are becoming sufficiently large to elect a president.
National Journal released a poll right before the debate showing Obama and Romney dead even nationwide -- 47 percent each -- among likely voters. The poll shows Obama's white support at just 38 percent. Obama was elected in 2008 with 43 percent of the white vote. He could be re-elected with even less. In Gallup's polling of last week, Obama's approval among white voters stood at 39 percent. He gets 38 percent approval among those who attend church weekly, compared with 55 percent among those who attend church seldom or never. And his approval among married voters is 40 percent, compared with 57 percent among those not married.
According to data compiled by the Tax Foundation, the large majority of those now filing tax returns in the U.S. are single. In 1960, 65 percent of all tax filers were married and 35 percent single. In 2010, it's reversed -- 61 percent of filers were single and 39 percent married.
When Obama pushes for taxing the rich, he's not just pitting those with the highest incomes against everyone else. He's pitting married people against singles. Eight of 10 tax filers in the top 20 percent of earners are married. The majority of filers of middle income and below are single.
It's really a cultural divide -- one you can be sure Obama is very aware of -- that is keeping his bubble inflated. The fact that Obama's support is still this strong despite his terrible record sends a clear warning to those looking for a new birth of American freedom.
Romney and Ryan should consider talking to these constituencies on directly -- blacks, Hispanics, singles -- explaining why America's future hinges on shutting down the government plantation.
Star Parker is an author and president of CURE, Center for Urban Renewal and Education. She can be reached at urbancure.org.