Leonard: ‘Everyone’s a winner’ comes of age
The economy has been stuck in a ditch for more than six years, and our national debt has exploded to unmanageable proportions. We have no coherent policy for dealing with conflicts in the Middle East, Africa or the Korean Peninsula. And scandals have erupted in the Internal Revenue Service, the State Department and the Justice Department.
Moreover, the three things the president said he would focus on the most in his second term — jobs, immigration reform and global warming — get barely a mention by the White House.
Those are not just my opinions. By clear majorities, most Americans also have reached the same conclusions.
Yet, if you believe the pollsters, slightly more than half of the American people also think the president is doing a good job. In fact, about one in five say he’s doing a very good or excellent job.
How can this be? Well, the pollsters have some theories.
One theory says that a lot of people believe the president was dealt the worst economic hand since the Great Depression (not true, — just ask Jimmy Carter) and that recessions take years to correct (only true when a country pursues the wrong policies).
Others believe the president has a plan to turn the economy around (also not true unless you believe a second trillion dollars of borrowed stimulus spending will succeed where the first failed) but is being blocked by Republicans (that theory actually is true).
Still others think the country has become so blindly partisan that neither Republicans nor Democrats are able to critically judge one of their own. (Sadly, I think that’s mostly true as well.)
But while all of these theories might provide a partial explanation for the president’s job-performance ratings, lately I’ve started to think there may be another explanation.
What we may be experiencing is the coming-of-age of “everyone’s a winner,” the child-development theory that says we should shield children from the realities of being ranked by performance or forced to accept losing in any form of competition.
“Everyone’s a winner” says everyone gets a turn at bat, no scores are kept and everyone gets a trophy for showing up.
“Everyone’s a winner” says everyone advances to the next grade, even if they lack the requisite knowledge and aptitude.
And “everyone’s a winner” says we shouldn’t praise individual achievement for fear it will harm the self-esteem of the average student or athlete.
In essence, “everyone’s a winner” attempts to eliminate both reward and consequence from the human experience. It’s also consistent with the politics that have attempted to replace equal opportunity with equal outcomes.
“Everyone’s a winner” also presumes that everyone makes an effort and, therefore, should be praised for trying. It makes no attempt to distinguish between amounts of preparation, level of effort or natural talents. Or whether a person’s efforts actually produce results.
Which brings us back to the president and his job approval ratings. The one explanation that pollsters offer most to rationalize the president’s numbers is his personal likability. Apparently, since most people say they like the president on a personal level, they simply can’t judge him too harshly. Or really even judge him at all.
The other side of this coin is that people also tell pollsters they believe the president really cares about average Americans. Part of the reason they think that’s true is because they also support the president’s constant denigration of economically successful Americans.
And, if we are really honest about what’s going on, the sad irony is that the president’s scapegoating of genuine success has helped keep him in a job — but actually made it more difficult for average Americans to find jobs.
But hey, the president goes to work most days, and by many accounts, he is trying to make things better. So why not give him a passing grade?
Charlie Leonard lives in Aspen.
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