Thursday, November 02, 2006

Robert Samuelson on the Election

In an article yesterday, Robert Samuelson, began with a quote from the American Commonwealth - "Towering over Presidents and [Congress] . . . public opinion stands out, in the United States, as the great source of power, the master of servants who tremble before it." - James Bryce's monumental work from the late 19th century.

He then goes through the inconsistency of current ranges of American public opinion - are we for or against the actions in Iraq? What would be the consequences of making a change in Congress for that policy? Have we as a people made an intelligent set of distinctions about what we want from the political system? We seem to want lots of programs including generous programs like the Medicare drug program but we also seem unprepared to bear the cost of those with higher taxes. (I for one could make a pretty easy choice there and it would not be for higher taxes!) Samuelson says about public opinion that "Aside from being fickle, public opinion also marches in many directions at once."

In a strange sense that seems to be less true in some other democratic systems. The choices among the political parties in the most recent election in Mexico were, from the opinion of at least an outside observer, pretty clear. Yesterday, as noted, I spent an hour working out and looking at MSNBC without sound (as noted, I recommend it). The political ads were thoroughly predictable. The dems tried to tie every GOP candidate to George Bush and the GOP candidates used a small set of mantras of those scary shibboleths that they think they can hang on the dems. Neither side seems to care much about opening up daylight on any issue.

Samuelson's conclusion is that in this American election cycle, because neither of the major political parties has made a serious attempt to improve the level of public discourse or to clarify the directions of public policy that "the republicans deserve to lose and the democrats do not deserve to win." Sounds about right to me. Too bad we do not have that choice.

1 comment:

Tulip said...

Beth and I both feel the same way about parental notification. We are both pro-choice but also want to have parents and children communicate, especially about something so important.