You get what you vote for

It’s not uncommon to hear voters complain that politicians change after taking office. Candidates present themselves one way during the campaign, and then do something very different after the election.

Generally speaking, the complaint falls short. On individual issues, officials will shift, adapt, compromise, and occasionally flip-flop, but it’s exceedingly rare for politicians to present themselves as having one ideology and agenda before the election, and a very different one once in office.

The problem, then, is often with the voters themselves. James Surowiecki has a good new item that touches on public responsibility.

[F]or the past year and a half, the Party has consistently gone for a do-nothing approach and voters have consistently rewarded it. In the run-up to last year’s midterms, Republicans were explicit about their opposition to past, present, and future stimulus programs. They won a landslide victory. And, just last week, in two special elections for the House, Republican candidates who campaigned largely against Obama’s policies won seats in Nevada and New York by margins that were much bigger than expected.

Americans may be saying that they want the government to use fiscal policy to get the economy moving again, but the way they vote tells a different story. Perhaps fourteen more months of economic stagnation and no job creation will change that. But, for now, it’s not only our representatives who are to blame. It’s ourselves.

There have been a couple of surprises this year, but in general, things have played out in a fairly predictable way. Republicans said they would reject compromise, push several government shutdown fights, demand fewer public investments, support a far-right austerity agenda, protect breaks for the very wealthy and oil companies, etc. And as it turns out, that’s what they’re doing.

Americans seem to hate what’s become of Washington, but policymakers didn’t just wander into those offices by accident. Voters put them there, and the policymakers were fairly explicit about their intentions.

I blame the dramatic radicalization of the Republican Party for most of the political systems’ ills, but on a more fundamental level, who rewarded Republican candidates despite their extremism?