Remember the Good Old Days When Republicans Cared Nothing for Public Opinion?
It wasn’t that long ago — only a little over a year. Now, you can add public opinion to the growing list of Principles Republicans (Now) Hold So Dear (emphasis is in original):
One Republican leader after the next stood up yesterday to depict the health care bill as a grave threat to democracy because it was enacted in the face of disapproval from a majority of Americans. Minority Leader John Boehner mourned: “We have failed to listen to America. And we have failed to reflect the will of our constituents. And when we fail to reflect that will — we fail ourselves and we fail our country.” GOP Rep. Mike Pence thundered: “We’re breaking with our finest traditions . . . . the consent of the governed.” That the health care bill destroys “the consent of the governed” because it is opposed by a majority of Americans has become the central theme of every talking-points-spouting, right-wing hack around.
Of course, these are the same exact people who spent years funding the Iraq War without end and without conditions even in the face of extreme public opposition, which consistently remained in the 60-65% range. Indeed, the wholesale irrelevance of public opinion was a central tenet of GOP rule for eight years, as illustrated by this classic exchange between Dick Cheney and ABC News‘ Martha Radditz in May, 2008, regarding the administration’s escalation of the war at exactly the same time that public demands for withdrawal were at their height:
RADDATZ: Two-third of Americans say it’s not worth fighting.
RADDATZ: So? You don’t care what the American people think?
CHENEY: No. I think you cannot be blown off course by the fluctuations in the public opinion polls.
For years, the explicit GOP view of public opinion was that it is irrelevant and does not matter in the slightest. Indeed, the view of our political class generally is that public opinion plays a role in how our government functions only during elections, and after that, those who win are free to do whatever they want regardless of what “the people” want. That’s what George Bush meant in 2005 when he responded to a question about why nobody in his administration had been held accountable for the fraud that led to the Iraq War: “We had an accountability moment, and that’s called the 2004 elections.” Watching these same Republicans now pretend that public opinion must be honored and that our democracy is imperiled when bills are passed without majority support is truly nauseating (of course, Democrats back then protested Cheney’s dismissal of public opinion as a dangerous war on democracy yet now insist that public opinion shouldn’t stop them from doing what they want).