We're feeling grumpy. 81% of the respondents in a new CBS News--New York Times poll say the country is headed in the wrong direction, up from 69% a year ago and 35% in 2002. It's the highest number since the poll began asking that question back in the 1990s. And the discontent is widespread--men and women, Republicans and Democrats, rural and urban residents, college graduates and non--all say we're going astray.
It's hard to blame them. Most worry about the economy. It's easy to find signs that we are in a recession and may not get out for a while. Some in the polls worry most about the war; there's plenty of bad news there, too. Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki's much publicized offensive against Moktada al-Sadr's Mahdi militia in Basra seems to have fizzled. The New York Times reports today that more than a thousand of Maliki's soldiers refused to fight or simply ran away during the attack last week. Just what we needed, of course.
And we've made only slow progress in another area--race. Martin Luther King was killed forty years ago today. You have to acknowledge a lot hasn't changed--many residential neighborhoods, and therefore many public schools, are still largely segregated. So are most churches. Some changes, sure. Forty years ago when I moved into the Washington, D.C., neighborhood where I live, most of the blacks who lived in it were poor. Most who live in it now are middle class. More blacks have good jobs now, more go to college. It's slow, but it's real.
The thing that makes me gloomiest about America is what this president has done to it. It's okay, by Mr. Bush's lights, to invade countries we don't like, to torture people we think might be terrorists, to hold suspects in secret prisons without ever charging them with anything or putting them on trial. That is not the America I grew up in. I cannot imagine presidents like Dwight Eisenhower or Harry Truman approving of any of that, and the sooner we get rid of this president and replace him with someone whose views are more traditionally American, the better off we'll be.
81% think we're on the wrong course? Good. Proves they're paying attention.