Given a choice of three options, just 24 percent of voters can correctly identify the cap-and-trade proposal as something that deals with environmental issues. A slightly higher number (29 percent) believe the proposal has something to do with regulating Wall Street while 17 percent think the term applies to health care reform. A plurality (30 percent) have no idea.
Rasmussen isnâ€™t asking how the program will be implemented, or whether permits will be auctioned or granted â€“ theyâ€™re asking what folder to put the issue in. And almost a third are putting it with Bernie Madoffâ€™s information.
There are two approaches to take here. One is absolute fretting and end-of-America prophesying. This isnâ€™t used as an epithet, since itâ€™s an entirely reasonable way to respond. This is still a democratically-based republic, one that has leaned closer to direct democracy than it has to a class-based system. If the vast majority of the country canâ€™t even speak Wonkish, let alone understand it, what hope do we have of having any sort of democratic influence on policy? Thereâ€™s also the issue of whatÂ wasnâ€™t polled. This is an incredibly basic question, but sometimes itâ€™s not the basic questions that matter. Sure everyone knows what â€œwarâ€ is â€“ but do they know why, and whatâ€™s the reason how? Itâ€™s amusing that this tip should come from Matt Yglesias, as he has a predilection for flashing poll numbers as proof of the superiority of his policy stances. Frankly, at this point I wonder if Iâ€™d even want to have this polity on my side for anything. Increasingly, the government of this country is symbolic, and voting has more in common with wearing the team colors than it does with reflections on society
That being the case, thereâ€™s a more contrary approach: whyÂ should anyone outside of the Beltway care? After all, these are people with jobs and kids and mortgage payments to get in. Perhaps studying OMB reports isnâ€™t exactly the best use of their time. The implications here are pretty troubling â€“ if utilization tends towards individuals that make up, say, one percent of the population deciding one hundred percent of policy. This is why you have support for an awful, awful bill like CPSIA, which was cast as â€œkeep lead of toys.â€ Never mind that the bill quite literally is putting small-sized retail shops out of business (and much, much more) â€“ symbolically, it worked, and hence it got support. Legislators preached the cause,Â bootleggers and baptists wrote the legalese, and everybody got together for a nice photo-op and luncheon afterward. For all the Liberal â€“ note that this is capitalized and that it is not â€œcenter-rightâ€ â€“ tendencies of this country, it has a funny way of pivoting towards increasing intervention in fields domestic and foreign.
Whatever it may be, it should make someone slightly skeptical of deciding national â€“ and, by imperial translation, international policy â€“ on the basis of the masses. Yet if democracy is the least-bad option (if olâ€™ drunk Churchill is to be belived?), then what? Might we be bold enough to suggest thatÂ Thoreau had it right all along?
NB: One final question: how many of those polled were elected officials? Iâ€™m only half-kidding.