[UPDATE] I wasn’t joking about the ‘re-election money’ thing.
Here is something interesting: this paragraph (from an article begging Democratic legislators in Republican districts to sign off on health care rationing, for the greater glory of liberal urban Democrats)…
Hardened? Consistent? Solid? You must be joking. Look at the Rasmussen survey cited by Caddell and Schoen. Nine months ago, it showed likely voters supporting the Democratic health-care plan by 5-point margin. Then they opposed it by an 11-point margin. Then they favored it again by 5 points. Then they opposed it by 15 points. Then they were split. Then they opposed it by 19 points. Now the margin is back down to 11. Who knows where will it be next week?
…and this graph*:
…are coming from the same data source.
Saletan is, of course, well aware that his readership is unlikely to go through the trouble of creating a graph and looking at the trends; in fact, it’s unlikely that he did it himself. In fact, I will be gracious and say that it would have been virtually impossible for him to write that article – or at least that paragraph – if he had. The visual evidence of seeing consistent majority opposition to the Democrats’ health care rationing bill, plus the inability of the Democrats to gain permanent traction in support of it, would have been too much.
As to his argument… Saletan didn’t have the guts (or, perhaps, the mother-wit) to quote Edmund Burke, so I will:
Certainly, gentlemen, it ought to be the happiness and glory of a representative to live in the strictest union, the closest correspondence, and the most unreserved communication with his constituents. Their wishes ought to have great weight with him; their opinion, high respect; their business, unremitted attention. It is his duty to sacrifice his repose, his pleasures, his satisfactions, to theirs; and above all, ever, and in all cases, to prefer their interest to his own. But his unbiassed opinion, his mature judgment, his enlightened conscience, he ought not to sacrifice to you, to any man, or to any set of men living. These he does not derive from your pleasure; no, nor from the law and the constitution. They are a trust from Providence, for the abuse of which he is deeply answerable. Your representative owes you, not his industry only, but his judgment; and he betrays, instead of serving you, if he sacrifices it to your opinion.
But that’s because I know that, if Democratic legislators take [Slate’s] advice, they will simply have changed the focus of their sacrifice from the opinion of their constituents to the opinion of William Saletan. Who – like the rest of the Democrats who have signed onto this mess – is primarily motivated by fear of their own impotence, and shame at their inability to lead. If there was intrinsic merit to this bill, its supporters would be trumpeting it to the skies and advancing it openly; that the Democrats are trying every piece of legal chicanery in the books to get it over the finish line only confirms that they themselves tacitly agree with popular opinion at this point. It is meritorious to buck popular opinion when you think that you’re right. It is not meritorious to buck it when you don’t, but you don’t want to be embarrassed by failure – or you need to go along with the party line if you want to get re-election money, which is the 500 lb gorilla in room for the Democrats right now.
In other words: when Democratic legislators start acting in accordance with the first half of Burke’s argument, they can act in accordance with the second half, too.
*For the curious: I broke each month in half and averaged the polls by half-month (Rasmussen did more polling of this issue in September, and whenever there was a major development).
Crossposted to Moe Lane.
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