Read my lips: Voters don't care about legislative process

Why do pundits persist in claiming that "the public" is in revolt against the way Democrats may pass healthcare?


Henry Farrell
March 15, 2010 9:16PM (UTC)

Writing in the Financial Times, Clive Crook resurrects a canard:

In the last big push to get reform through, using whatever deals, scams, ruses and parliamentary evasions fall to hand, the public and their concerns are pushed ever more to the periphery of Washington’s vision. … Recovering voters’ respect for the outcome, even assuming the outcome is good, looks an ever more distant prospect. … Democrats facing tight elections are right to worry that “in due course” might be a long time. It is hard to see how the public will forget this mess between now and November. … passing an unpopular bill by questionable means is unlikely to prove an electoral tonic.

John Sides has been all over this. However, he merely has ‘data’ and ‘analysis’ on his side. Clive Crook, in contrast, has the punditocracy’s trump card -- confidently-worded assertions.

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Less sarcastically (OK -- only slightly less sarcastically), when I become world dictator, my first act will be to decree that pundits who promiscuously write about how "the public" thinks this or that, without any reference to data on what the "public" (a dubious concept in most of these debates anyway) actually thinks, will be required, under pain of death, to rewrite their columns so as to substitute the word “I” and related personal pronouns/possessive adjectives for the word “the public” throughout.

In the interim, readers are invited to make the necessary substitutions themselves. As illustrated by the following:

In the last big push to get reform through, using whatever deals, scams, ruses and parliamentary evasions fall to hand, me and my concerns are pushed ever more to the periphery of Washington’s vision. … My respect for the outcome, even assuming the outcome is good, looks an ever more distant prospect. … Democrats facing tight elections are right to worry that “in due course” might be a long time. It is hard to see how I will forget this mess between now and November. … passing an unpopular bill by questionable means is unlikely to win my vote.

This simple reworking, happily, has the dual advantage of being punchier and more accurate than the original.

Henry Farrell is Associate Professor of Political Science and International Affairs at the George Washington University, Washington, DC. The original version of this post appears on The Monkey Cage.


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