“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).

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