Cape Gazette
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Politics

Should a democracy be governed based on polling?

By Don Flood | Oct 15, 2013

There’s an old joke about conjugating verbs. (Stop me if you’ve heard it. Oops, too late): “I am firm. You are obstinate. He is pigheaded.”

Since some recent letter-writers have referred to me as a “propagandist,” I’m guessing they might pick “pigheaded” to describe me, a view that might find support from my wife. I have the impression, though, that in this case a “propagandist” means nothing more than “person of differing opinion.”

But I did find one letter revealing, because I think it speaks for how some people feel.

Of the current battle over the Affordable Care Act, the letter-writer said, “The Republicans are taking a stand to repeal or alter the ACA on behalf of the majority. This is the democratic process at work.”

First, they’re not taking a stand to “repeal” anything. The Republicans don’t have the votes for that.

Instead, they are demanding that the Affordable Care Act be defunded or they will shut down the government and not raise the debt ceiling, moves that could lead to financial catastrophe.

(That’s what they were demanding, anyway. I don’t know what they’re demanding now, and I’m not alone. Republican Congressman Mark Stutzman of Indiana recently said, “We have to get something out of this, and I don’t even know what that even is.”)

But the interesting part is when the letter-writer says the Republicans are acting “on behalf of the majority.” What majority?

Oh yes, there are various polls showing this and that. But in a democracy, there’s only one poll that really counts. That’s the one held on Election Day.

President Obama ran for his first term on a platform that included national health insurance. He won. Congress passed the ACA, and Obama signed it in 2010.

(The letter-writer also referred to “sweetheart deals.” Please. Deals go back to the very founding of our democracy, with the U.S. Constitution containing one of the ugliest ever: Southern states were allowed to include 60 percent of their slave population when determining their representation in Congress, despite the fact slaves had the same right to citizenship as cattle.)

Obama ran again in 2012. Romney and the Republicans took every opportunity to make their case that the ACA was a mistake. Obama won again. If Romney had won, Republicans would be in a much stronger position to repeal the ACA. But he didn’t.

Now Republicans are trying to win by extortion what they lost by election.

Is the writer seriously suggesting that we nullify two presidential elections and decide national policy based on polls?

Which polls? Republicans would probably choose the Gallup Poll, since that was the poll that had them convinced that Romney was going to win by a landslide. Not only did Romney lose; it wasn’t exactly a nail-biter.

Republicans were so convinced the Gallup Poll was correct - and not all the other polls - they charged a conspiracy was afoot. Poor Karl Rove made a fool of himself Election Night by insisting that Romney wasn’t losing, even as vote counts told the real story.

Apparently, some Republicans still haven’t gotten the message they lost the election. Or, more likely, they don’t care.

Going by the polls is a ridiculous idea, but even by that standard Republicans lose.

Polls, including the CBS/Wall Street Journal poll, show that Americans blame Republicans for the shutdown. The Wall Street Journal - not generally considered a leftist publication - called its own poll results “jaw-dropping.”

Polls also show Americans don’t want the government shut down in an attempt to defund Obamacare.

Should those polls be considered? How about the polls that show Americans, by a large margin, don’t want insurance companies to consider customers’ preexisting conditions, one of the basic components of the ACA?

Now Republicans are trying to argue that Obama refuses to negotiate.

Right. First, Republicans demanded that the ACA be defunded. Politically, that didn’t work.

Now they’re demanding it be delayed a year. But they’re not asking for a delay to tweak or improve the ACA. What they’re really saying is, “Give us one more year to destroy you and the ACA or we will blow up the economy.”

That’s no exaggeration. In 2010, after the midterm election, Sen. Mitch McConnell said the Republicans’ goal was to make sure Obama was a one-term president. He didn’t even bother paying lip service to the idea of getting America back to work.

Their goals began and ended with stopping Obama. Stopping the ACA was the best way to do that.

Now let’s say Congress passed a budget and raised the debt ceiling. Then Republicans would be in a position to ask for negotiations about spending and revenues, and Obama would be in the wrong if he refused.

That’s how democracy should work. America shouldn’t be held hostage by a minority that chooses to imagine it represents a majority.

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