I was thinking about that this weekend, reading through Obama's Michigan speech on the importance of government. We've seen a lot of polling out recently about anti-government views. But are the speeches by Obama himself and members of his administration making any headway against those negative ideas? I'd be curious to see before-and-after polling in areas where those speeches are happening. The sample size might be too small to be meaningful, but I'm still curious.
And I also wonder about the rhetorical strategy of making concessions about government's impact:
Obama acknowledged that in "certain instances," government has been inefficient and restricted personal freedom. Examples, he said, included a welfare system that discouraged personal responsibility, a tendency to neglect the role of parents in their children's education and failed regulatory efforts.
But on the whole, Obama argued, government is a powerful force for good.
"Government is the police officers who are protecting our communities and the service men and women who are defending us abroad," he said. "Government is the roads you drove in on and the speed limits that kept you safe. Government is what ensures that mines adhere to safety standards and that oil spills are cleaned up by the companies that caused them. Government is this extraordinary public university -- a place that is doing life-saving research and catalyzing economic growth and graduating students who will change the world around them in ways big and small."
I understand that this is a long-term project. But I think, as the administration proceeds in its second year, it's one that's been underexamined.