How Townhall Meetings Influence Grassley's Health Care Views

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by Conor Clarke

The Washington Post reports that Grand Poobah Charles Grassley says "the outpouring of anger at town hall meetings this month has fundamentally altered the nature of the debate and convinced him that lawmakers should consider drastically scaling back the scope of health-care reform." Grassley elaborates, via the Post:

After being besieged by protesters at meetings across his home state of Iowa, Grassley said he has concluded that the public has rejected the far-reaching proposals Democrats have put on the table, viewing them as overly expensive precursors to "a government takeover of health care."

I think it's worth mentioning that the Grassley theory of "the public" is pretty much the exact opposite of how American democracy is supposed to function. Famously, public representatives are supposed to distinguish between the "vicious arts" of faction (Madison's words) and the "permanent and aggregate interests of the community" (Hamilton's). Of course, it might be the case that protestors laying seige to Fort Grassley actually represent the aggregate interests of the public. But you won't find evidence for that conclusion at a townhall meeting.

On the other hand, there's a pretty interesting question about the nature of democracy here: Formal democracy measures only the number of preferences (tallying votes), and not the intensity of preferences (like passionate townhall protests) or the quality of preferences (like the opinion of some group of philosopher kings). But I'm going to go out on a limb and assume Senator Grassley is not asking those rich philosophical quesitons.

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