Toward a General Theory of Democratic Disgruntlement

Nate Silver wonders why Democrats approve Democrat-controlled congresses less than Republicans approve Republican-controlled congresses:

Pollster Celinda Lake spoke to first, and perhaps most crucial point in her email reply to me. "It’s easier to unify Republicans because mostly they want to stop things. It’s harder to unify people when you want to do things." (emphasis added) Therein lies the broader asymmetry: Doing nothing is a single thing, whereas doing something implies many options. And it is easier to build consensus around a “nothing” menu of 1 than it is for a more variegated menu of limitless options of “something.”

This is, I grant, not a particularly profound observation. Indeed, the idea that the status quo ante enjoys an advantaged position is a core assumption in social choice theories--especially as they apply to American politics, what with its separation of powers and supermajority rules and other constitutional and extra-constitutional rules and strictures designed to slow progress. That reality remains true regardless of the prevailing distribution of political attitudes, their intensity, and so on: It is an ineluctable fact in American politics it’s hard to do something, but even harder to reverse or undo or change course once it’s done.