Americans and Health Care

Here's an interesting tid bit from today's news. In this poll, released Friday, January 21, 2011, it was found that the majority of Americans did NOT want Congress to put Health Care at the top of their agenda, and only 40 percent of them wanted to see it repealed. The majority does NOT want to repeal the health care act of 2010. It turns out that the numbers for repealing the act have never been high, and they have been going down steadily.

It's helpful to point that out because it is not something one would surmise from hearing the heated debate about this in Congress or even the reports on it in the media. This is similar to this CBS poll that came out in September, and this one that came out in December, the week before the vote in Congress to extend the Bush-era tax cuts for the very wealthy. In both instances, people did NOT want an extension of the tax cuts. For all of the heated rhetoric about how the "American people" want this because they don't want taxes for anyone to go up, the surprising fact was that people said just the opposite. The"American people" did NOT want the tax cuts extended to the wealthy and they were even pretty lukewarm about whether their own cuts should be extended.

But, in both cases, members of Congress (frankly, I mean just Republicans, but I'm trying to be fair) still voted against the will of the people, claiming to be voting for what the "American people" wanted. And there are other examples. People want one thing and Congress votes for the opposite claiming a mandate from the people. It is not uncommon.

But how does that happen? How can Congress ignore public opinion and continue to get away with it?

Well, though it has probably happened to some extent since the ancients first began tinkering with voting for their representatives. But it is considerably easier today, for two reasons.

First, the districts for Congressional representatives have been drawn in such a way that the vast majority of the people in their districts are of only one party. So, a Republican, let's say, can know that for the time being in the conceivable future, a will ALWAYS be elected in District "X." Second, the reality of politics today are that in each of the primaries (which have become the only places were meaningful elections are taking place), the largest majority of voters are the true believers, the activists. And for the Republicans, that means a very large number from the radical right wing fringes, the Tea Party, the gun lobby, the religious conservatives, etc. So, when a Republican is running for office, he or she does not need to be concerned about the general national opinions of "Americans." Or even of the more moderate opinions of general Republicans. All he or she needs to appeal to are the far right voters who are going to show up in the primaries. In fact, in Today's climate if a Representative decides to vote too often with the opinions of the vast middle of America, he or she would probably lose out in the next primary because the middle does not represent the voting block that shows up to vote.

Doesn't bode well for Democracy, but then, what else is new?

Stay warm and safe. It's getting cold out there. 

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