Pendulum Swings, Hits You In The Head

Jillian Bandes
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Posted: Mar 15, 2010 1:30 PM
William Saletan wants legislators to ignore the overwhelmingly negative polling on the health care bill, and vote for the darn thing anyway, because a) polling is unreliable, and b) it's the right thing to do. But if polling is unreliable, so is his interpretation of it. And, as Ramesh Ponneru points out, the health care debate isn't about altruism -- it's about policy.

The meat of Saletan's argument is what he describes as an ongoing ebb and flow of the public's desire for more government services. The pendulum has swung, claims Saletan, against a welfare state, which is why people are polling against increased government involvement in their health care. Soon, that pendulum will swing back and people will once again be crowing for more Uncle Sam.

But the pendulum swinging in that way doesn't make sense The economy stinks, so shouldn't people be crowing for more free services now, instead of telling pollsters that they don't want them? More importantly, Saletan cites a study that chronicles the ebb and flow of Americans' trust in government, and he uses this study to prove his point about the ebb and flow in their desire for more government.

Trusting government isn't the same as wanting more of it. And even if the pendulum swings like he says it does, a true understanding of that motion is difficult to interpret. Saletan's interpretation fits pretty well with his overall political beliefs. As does his end point, which is essentially,  "they should vote for this because it's the right thing to do."
You're the lucky bastard who had your seat in 2010, when that bill reached the floor. And here you are, worrying about your career, when the purpose of your career is staring you in the face.
Saletan wants politicians to listen to America because of his subjective interpretation of American opinion. He also wants the bill passed because he thinks its right thing to do, but that's even more subjective. Democrats -- and Republicans -- would do better to stick with what Ponneru said -- consider the policy proposals, and vote according to their merits.