Several readers have argued that on two issues, the Washington bipartisan establishment is as out of touch with public opinion as on Israel's attack on Gaza: medical marijuana and the Cuba embargo. One writes:

What about these government bailouts of the financial and auto industries? Or whether to be lenient about the entry and hiring of illegal aliens? Or whether to have tough gun control?

In both cases, if you are part of that sizable faction (or majority) of the electorate that doesn't want the government to bail anyone out or believes that we should deal harshly with illegal immigrants and their employers, you basically have no party to go to even though you're likely to be a Republican (for the first two issues) or Democratic (for the third).  The leadership of both parties favors bailouts and cheap labor and letting guns be relatively easy to obtain - different reasons and different emphases, but basically identical opinions.

What matters, politically, is the importance of an issue to people (is it going to affect their vote?) - not their actual opinion.

And it is on issues where intensity matters that special interest groups legitimately and openly have a role to play. I don't see anything wrong or unethical about the passionate Cuban and Israeli lobbies in Washington. Intensity does matter in a nation's politics. It's just important to ensure that America's national interests are always at the center of the debate, even if the debate is inevitably skewed in one direction or other.

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