Letting the loudest voice win

LETTING THE LOUDEST VOICE WIN…. Sen. Chuck Grassley (R) of Iowa, the leading Republican negotiator on health care reform, claims to be working on some kind of bipartisan solution to the systemic crisis. He told the Washington Post yesterday, however, that right-wing activists have convinced him to abandon ambitious, bold, comprehensive policies, and instead embrace smaller, weaker, and more timid policymaking.

Sen. Charles E. Grassley, a key Republican negotiator in the quest for bipartisan health-care reform, said Wednesday that the outpouring of anger at town hall meetings this month has fundamentally altered the nature of the debate and convinced him that lawmakers should consider drastically scaling back the scope of the effort.

After being besieged by protesters at meetings across his home state of Iowa, Grassley said he has concluded that the public has rejected the far-reaching proposals Democrats have put on the table, viewing them as overly expensive precursors to “a government takeover of health care.”

Because he’s heard from so many angry conservatives, the Republican senator said, negotiators should scale back any and all efforts at reform. He added that while senators have been looking at a “comprehensive” approach to helping tens of millions of uninsured families, those efforts should be reconsidered because of the right-wing shouting at “the town hall meetings.”

Calls for reform are “not quite as loud as people that say we ought to slow down or don’t do anything,” Grassley said. “And I’ve got to listen to my people.”

Grassley has become increasingly incoherent in recent weeks, but these remarks are among the most foolish to date. As Daniel Politi put it, the Iowa senator is arguing “he makes his governing decisions based on who screams the loudest.”

That sounds absurd, but it’s precisely what Grassley is saying. He has 3 million constituents. Let’s say, hypothetically, Grassley has heard angry right-wing screams from, say, 3,000 Iowans at town-hall events. That would mean the senator had heard strenuous opposition to reform from exactly 0.1% of his constituents. If he’s heard far-right town-hall enmity from 30,000 Iowans — a farfetched claim, to be sure — that would still only be 1% of the people Grassley represents.

What’s more, we’re not just talking about a small fraction of a larger population, but also a small group enraged by right-wing lies, and organized by right-wing groups and private insurers that do not represent the American mainstream.

So why would Chuck Grassley say Congress and the White House should follow the demands of these unhinged activists? Because he’s a surprisingly irresponsible senator, looking for an excuse to oppose reform.