Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Who Cares About Public Opinion?

Polls consistently show the public doesn't like the current health care reform proposals — whether they think they're too conservative, too liberal, or too stupid is beside the point. They don't like them and don't want any of them.

Many are asking: So what?

Should every policy be based on polls? Are we not a republic instead of a democracy? We elect people to govern, and they must govern, right?

Yes and no.

Every issue is not the same, and there are times when leaders must lead. As the columnist for The New Republic pointed out, public opinion was against the Iraq surge, but Bush did it anyway. That was totally appropriate.

National security and foreign policy often require the consideration of classified information. Decisions frequently have to be made quickly. The issues are complex and have repercussions that are difficult to predict; specialists spend their entire lives studying them and give their educated opinions to our leaders. Only our leaders have all the information, and they must act.

Domestic policy is different. It can be complicated but less so than foreign policy. Issues are less likely to involve state secrets and time sensitive decisions.

Most importantly, they directly affect us.

Foreign policy is about what our country does somewhere else. Domestic policy is about what our country does to us. Decisions about health care reform will directly affect all of us for the rest of our lives.

To argue that the government knows best and should do what is best for us is to advocate treating us like children. I make my kids go to bed, eat healthy food, and get their booster shots because it's good for them. But no one makes me do any of those things. I am an adult and have the right and responsibility to make my own decisions which I must then live with.

If Washington decides to treat us like children and force us to do "what's best for us," I think they'll find out who cares about public opinion: the public. People are very upset about how this whole thing appears to be going down, and November is not that far away.

What do you think? Should the government do what's "best" for us? Do we only have a voice on election day, or should our representatives care what we say every day?


Phil Jaffe said...

Foreign policy doesn't directly effect us?? What an asinine thing to say. When a president sends troops off to war, they're sending our sons, our daughters, our brothers, our sisters, our fathers, our mothers, our friends, etc.

If that doesn't count as "directly effecting us", what does???

ChrisB said...

Of course it affects us. But not in the same way. Domestic policy, especially this one, will change the lives of literally 300 million Americans.

There is a difference.

Vinny said...


I had actually seen this post but I thought it so silly that I wasn't going to comment. But since you went to the effort to point it out, I will.

Go back and learn some history. The founders distrusted direct democracy. That's why the Constitution provided that members of the Senate be selected by state governments rather than by direct election. The founders assumed and expected that elected representatives would exercise their judgment whether the issue was domestic policy or foreign.

ChrisB said...

Mostly I just didn't want you to think I was ignoring your earlier comment.

So I guess you're in the "only on Super Tuesday" category. I'm sure your represenatives appreciate you not bothering them with your opinions and simply voting.

"The founders distrusted direct democracy."

Yep. And in many ways they were right. Making the Senate popularly elected was probably a big mistake.

"assumed and expected that elected representatives would exercise their judgment"

They also assumed we would have citizen legislators and not career politicians. Sometimes they were wrong.

We cannot force them to listen to us. (Ah, if only we had recall.) But we don't have to just sit here and take whatever they come up with.

If it helps, think of it as us loudly promising payback at the next election. Most people don't like being treated like children.

Vinny said...

I have been bothering them with my opinion. I have let them know that I want them to do something about reforming health care. I would have preferred a public option but I think that there are some valuable features in this bill.

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