It’s Not the System

Ezra Klein brings up something I’ve been thinking about the past couple days as I’ve been contemplating the problems and virtues of a “representative” government.

Incidentally, I’m not exactly sure what you call a political system in which politicians routinely ignore public opinion. Not one Republican House member voted for the stimulus bill. Not one of them thought their constituent’s preference should outweigh their party’s interests. The implications of that seem pretty profound, but we’re so used to it by now that the most common response I’ve heard has been, “told you so.”

That the House Republicans knew the bill would pass regardless of their vote complicates this assertion quite a bit; the “constituent’s preference,” will essentially be promulgated whether or not their poopy-pants Congressman voted for it or not by virtue of the large Democratic majority. In light of that, I’m not sure how to gauge the profundity of all of this, but frankly I think it’s much more reflective of your average American than the American political system. Obvioulsy there’s something to be said for a groups’ incentive for self-preservation having a corruptive influence on government, but it’s a more striking indictment of the American public that politicians aren’t punished for ignoring their views. Of course, this isn’t born out of some innate tolerance or preference for institutional corruption, it’s a direct result of the fact that a good number of Americans might not even know their Congressman’s name, let alone their vote on a particular bill. Politicians wouldn’t so routinely lie or flaunt public opinion if they were actually held accountable for it.

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