Ignoring ‘the American people’

IGNORING ‘THE AMERICAN PEOPLE’…. Following up on an earlier item, several recent national polls have shown overwhelming opposition to the Republican agenda, most notably GOP plans to eliminate Medicare and replace it with a privatized voucher system.

My question for Republicans, then, is whether they still prioritize public opinion the way they did during the health care fight. After all, during the debate over the Affordable Care Act, GOP officials said opposition to the measure in the polls was all that mattered.

To bolster this point, a Democratic source today emailed an interesting list of quotes from the health care fight.

Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas):

“The American people don’t want this bill, but our Democrat friends seem determined to jam it down their throat regardless, and I think there are going to be some very serious consequences.”

Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.):

“The American people thoroughly reject it. So, if [President Obama] is listening to the American people, they’ve said no to his bill.”

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.):

“The American people are very smart. That’s why two thirds of them want either stop or start over.”

Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Va.):

“What we are trying to do is find out why the president wants to continue to ignore the American people.”

Either polls matter or they don’t. Either Republicans believe policymakers should honor public wishes or they don’t.

But they can’t, or at least shouldn’t, have it both ways. Americans clearly reject the Republican agenda, especially on Medicare, but GOP leaders are pressing ahead anyway. Shouldn’t this be about the time that Eric Cantor wonders why his own party “wants to continue to ignore the American people”?

It was literally just last year when Republicans decided that opinion polls are the single most important factor policymakers should consider, especially when dealing with controversial changes to the status quo. For politicians to simply ignore overwhelming survey data was offensive and arrogant, undermining core American ideals like “consent of the governed.” By some accounts, Republicans seriously believed that Democrats and President Obama “perpetrated a breathtaking assault on the body politic by passing a law that did not have widespread public support.”

I don’t expect Republicans to simply scrap their unpopular budget agenda, but if their rhetoric from 13 months ago was sincere, shouldn’t they feel compelled to do just that?