From James Taranto at The WSJ:
Some polls show that a majority of Americans disagree with some Republican congressmen about some things, yet Republicans seem likely to do well in November.
An example, according to Newsweek's Jonathan Alter: Americans "overwhelmingly favor more regulation of Wall Street." Last week Congress passed a bill styled the Restoring American Financial Stability Act of 2010, which President Obama will soon sign, and which will provide for "more regulation of Wall Street." Hardly any Republicans (only three in each house of Congress) voted for the bill, and House Minority Leader John Boehner has said he'd like to repeal it.
So why would people vote Republican? Alter's answer:
Because they aren't rationally aligning belief and action; they're tempted to lose their spleens in the polling place without fully grasping the consequences.
Eureka, voters are irrational! If they were rational, they would vote for Democrats.
.A Republican might counter that "voters rightly sense that financial reform doesn't address the problem of 'too big to fail' " and that "when Obama says the bill means 'No more taxpayer-funded bailouts--period,' he lessens his credibility." But a Republican wouldn't have to say that, because Alter does--in the same column. Sounds as though someone is suffering from a bit of cognitive dissonance.
Alter's attitude is typical of the political class. Of course actual politicians can't afford to be quite so brazenly condescending, since their careers depend on persuading voters to support them. The results can be quite comical, as when Vice President Biden tried yesterday to make an Alter-like argument without insulting the voters. Politico describes the interview:
Asked by ABC's "This Week" host Jake Tapper . . . if the administration "is getting enough credit" for the Wall St. bill, the health care bill, and the economic Recovery Act in light of polls showing the majority of Americans believe the country is on the wrong track, Biden said: "The vast majority of the American people and a lot of people really involved don't even know what's inside the packages." . . .
Despite those polls, Biden said, the country is moving in the right direction, saying of Americans who disagree "nor could they or should they" understand that, given the 6.7 million jobs lost in the last six months of the Bush administration and the first six months of the Obama administration.
Biden thinks the voters are ignorant, but he credits them with being rationally so. But also unlike a journalist, a Democratic politician cannot afford to risk his own party's morale by predicting a Republican victory. So Biden went on to predict that voters will overcome their ignorance in the next 3½ months and vote Democratic. From the transcript:
I am absolutely confidence--confident when people take a look at the what has happened since we've taken office in November and comparing it to the alternative, we're going to be very--we're going to be in great shape.
The vice president's description of the administration's political strategy reminds us of the business plan of the Underpants Gnomes from "South Park":
Phase 1: Legislation
Phase 2: ?
Phase 3: Victory
A more conventional approach, one with a clear path to political victory, goes like this:
Phase 1: Convince voters of the merits of your proposal
Phase 2: Legislation
Phase 3: Victory
If you win the voters' support for your proposals first, not only do they have a reason to stick with you, but more members of the other party will feel obliged to vote your way, even if they have misgivings about your policies. George W. Bush took this approach to the Iraq war resolution in 2002. It passed with bipartisan support, and declining public confidence in the war effort did not hurt Republicans at the polls until four years later.
One can make the case--assuming for the sake of argument that Obama's legislative initiatives were good policy--that the stimulus was a response to a crisis and thus passing it quickly was more important than winning broad support ahead of time. The same can be said of the 2008 financial bailout legislation, for which some supporters are now paying a political price. Perhaps one could make the same argument for last week's Wall Street legislation, though that's more of a stretch.
But not ObamaCare, which was not a response to a crisis but an exercise in ideological and political vanity. There is no excuse for the Democrats' having pushed through this law after having failed to win popular support for it. Under these circumstances, it is completely rational to support the only party capable of checking such imperious behavior.