“Me, The People”: Repeat Offender Edition

by Henry Farrell on March 22, 2010 · 6 comments

in Me The People,Political Science and Journalism

Clive Crook does it again (see here for context). All good, as far as I am concerned – it finally allows me to make the pun in the title (which I really should have thought of the first time around). Anyway, Crook, with some minor editorial improvements, below:

Remarkable as it may be—and welcome, too, as I believe—it is nonetheless a tainted victory. Brown won in Massachusetts for a reason. The Democrats had failed to make their case for this reform to me. They pressed the case for some sort of reform, but that was easy: I was already there. What I dislike is this particular bill, and the Democrats, intent on arguing among themselves, barely even tried to change my mind.

I struggle to understand how extending health insurance to 32 million Americans, at a cost of a trillion dollars over ten years, can be a deficit-reducing measure. If cuts in Medicare will pay for half of that outlay, as the plan intends, I struggle to see how the quality of Medicare’s services can be maintained—let alone improved, as Pelosi said again in her speech on Sunday. The CBO notwithstanding, I am right not to believe these claims.

Whether you agree with that or not, the law the Democrats just passed is unpopular with me. It is a far-reaching, transformative measure that in the end will affect almost everyone; it is opposed by me most of the time; and it is now law. I would never have believed this possible in the United States.

See Josh’s post below for some actual analysis that looks toward data (I wonder in particular where Crook gets his ‘most of the country’ claim given the narrowness of the divide in opinion polls). I should acknowledge that Crook does suggest that public opinion may change on this (and also criticizes both sides of the aisle and favors generic HCR more than my ‘revised’ quote would suggest) – but he really seems to have a quite exaggerated understanding of the depth and coherence of public opposition. Nor do I want to keep on picking on Crook in particular; I imagine that this will be only one in a series of posts hammering away at this rhetorical-shtick-masquerading-as-an-argument given its ubiquity among political commentators. Readers are invited to forward me more as they see them (nb: I am looking for more than shallow ‘the country demands’ type applause-lines – what I really want to see evidence of is pundits looking into their hearts, discerning the shape of American public opinion there, and drawing the necessary conclusions).

{ 6 comments }

Andrew March 23, 2010 at 4:31 am

Yeah, that’s pretty funny for him to be going on and on about the cost, given that graph showing that the health care systems in other industrialized countries cost about half that of the U.S.!

Crook might be right in the details, but it certainly can’t be obvious that extending health coverage will increase costs.

P3W March 23, 2010 at 10:19 am

Classic example of the false consensus bias

Castorp March 23, 2010 at 10:36 am

“what I really want to see evidence of is pundits looking into their hearts, discerning the shape of American public opinion there, and drawing the necessary conclusions”

Mmm, so should we just send in the really egregious David Brooks columns or all of them?

Craigoire March 23, 2010 at 11:47 am

If there is a contest for rhetorical-shtick-masquerading-as-an-argument, Megan Macardle just lapped the field with this post.

Highlights:

…Parties have passed legislation before that wasn’t broadly publicly supported (by me). But the only substantial instances I can think of in America are budget bills and TARP–bills that the congressmen were basically forced to by emergencies in the markets…

…One cannot help but admire Nancy Pelosi’s skill as a legislator. But it’s also pretty worrying. Are we now in a world where there is absolutely no recourse to the tyranny of the majority? Republicans and other opponents of the bill did their job on this; they persuaded the country (me) that they didn’t want this bill. And that mattered basically not at all…

…I hope Obama gets his wish to be a one-term president who passed health care. Not because I think I will like his opponent–I very much doubt that I will support much of anything Obama’s opponent says. But because politicians shouldn’t feel that the best route to electoral success is to lie to the voters (me), and then ignore them (me)

…We’re not a parliamentary democracy, and we don’t have the mechanisms, like votes of no confidence, that parliamentary democracies use to provide a check on their politicians. The check that we have is that politicians care what the voters (I) think. If that slips away, America’s already quite toxic politics will become poisonous.

Henry March 23, 2010 at 12:13 pm

Polite political scientist Henry doesn’t feel in a position to comment on the McArdle piece. “Not so polite political blogger Henry”:http://crookedtimber.org/2010/03/22/since-im-getting-into-the-habit-of-posting-about-self-refuting-articles/ is a different kettle of fish altogether.

Clambone March 23, 2010 at 1:22 pm

I can’t help but believe that it works the other way as well: “The American people want a sick day.” “The American people demand the last slice of pizza.”
“The American people think you should go home with me tonight.”

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