The Voice Of The People

Bernstein continues his crusade against majority rule:

Because there really aren't natural majorities in the U.S., at least most of the time and on most issues, it is difficult to argue that (for example) the Democrats should, on democratic grounds, be able to automatically pass their legislative agenda after winning the 2008 elections. All we know from the elections is that a particular set of candidates won. We don't know whether people supported Obama and the Democrats because of their positions on health care, or Iraq, or terrorism, or torture, or gay rights, or abortion, or climate, or energy, or any number of other issues.

And of course a good number of people may have been just throwing the bums out and didn't think about specific policies, and others may have supported Obama for reasons of ethnic solidarity, or because they thought he would be a more pleasant TV presence than John McCain, or for any number of other non-policy reasons. So we cannot conclude that a popular majority supports any particular policy proposal. Nor does the argument based on accountability make sense. Even if the majority party was able to easily enact whatever they wanted, there are simply far too many issue areas, and only one vote per person. Suppose a voter wants to reward the president for his actions on health care and DADT, but punish him for his actions on Afghanistan and the economy. Only one vote! It just doesn't work. That doesn't mean that elections are useless -- I certainly don't believe that -- but it does mean that they're a blunt instrument, and more useful in providing the proper incentives for pols than they are for giving voice to what The People want.