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nikkibong
02-25-2010, 04:24 PM
I've been watching the health care summit today. Has anybody else?

The GOP has not been impressive. I think Chait sums it up best in this post:
http://www.tnr.com/blog/jonathan-chait/why-you-cant-discuss-health-care-the-gop

John Boehner, the House Majority Leader, simply repeated the GOP talking point about scrapping the 2,000 page bill and doing the easy popular stuff: "Why can't we agree on those insurance reforms we talked about? Why can't we agree on purchasing across state lines?" It's like he wasn't even there. Does he not understand what the other side is saying? Does he not care at all? It's not that he's provided an answer to Obama's arguments that I disagree with. He's just totally unable to acknowledge or engage at any level with the arguments presented. You're debating a brick wall.

uncle ebeneezer
02-25-2010, 04:30 PM
Thanks for the update. All over the world brick walls are shedding tears ;)

claymisher
02-25-2010, 04:39 PM
Taking a step back and looking at the big picture, why the fuck are Republicans against HCR? It's basically a Republican-style plan. Are they just against it because they're against everything? WTF?

AemJeff
02-25-2010, 04:42 PM
I've been watching the health care summit today. Has anybody else?

The GOP has not been impressive. I think Chait sums it up best in this post:
http://www.tnr.com/blog/jonathan-chait/why-you-cant-discuss-health-care-the-gop

John Boehner, the House Majority Leader, simply repeated the GOP talking point about scrapping the 2,000 page bill and doing the easy popular stuff: "Why can't we agree on those insurance reforms we talked about? Why can't we agree on purchasing across state lines?" It's like he wasn't even there. Does he not understand what the other side is saying? Does he not care at all? It's not that he's provided an answer to Obama's arguments that I disagree with. He's just totally unable to acknowledge or engage at any level with the arguments presented. You're debating a brick wall.

I'm watching.

Shorter Republicans:

Why don't you just be reasonable and enact all of our proposals and none of the Democrats'?

Is anybody actually surprised by the Republicans' disingenuousness on this issue?

bjkeefe
02-25-2010, 05:56 PM
Taking a step back and looking at the big picture, why the fuck are Republicans against HCR? It's basically a Republican-style plan. Are they just against it because they're against everything? WTF?

Yes, especially if it's got Obama's name attached to it. They've never been shy about having this position, from day one.

bjkeefe
02-25-2010, 05:58 PM
Is anybody actually surprised by the Republicans' disingenuousness on this issue?

No. What I suspect is that Obama went into this 5% hoping that some Republican would say something he could build on, in the interest of the magical bipartisan pony, and 95% expecting they'd do what all reports say they're doing, with the idea that he could illustrate how intransigent they're still being, so that he can push ahead with passage without them.

Hope so, anyway. It'll be interesting to see how the MSM covers it.

bjkeefe
02-25-2010, 06:02 PM
I've been watching the health care summit today. Has anybody else?

The GOP has not been impressive. I think Chait sums it up best in this post:
http://www.tnr.com/blog/jonathan-chait/why-you-cant-discuss-health-care-the-gop

Another good bit from Chait:

The closest thing I've seen to a substantive rebuttal from the GOP has been from Paul Ryan, the right-wing rising star. Ryan objected that the Senate health care bill does not really reduce the deficit, because it raises taxes and reduces spending over ten years, but pays out benefits over just six. If that was true, it would be a sharp rebuttal to Obama's claim of reducing the deficit. And you could certainly design a bill like that. By spreading out the savings over a long time and delaying the benefits, you'd have a bill that technically saves money over a ten year window, but starts to lose money by year ten, and to bleed more red ink after that.

But it's not true. The benefits do phase in slowly, but so do the savings. The CBO finds (http://cbo.gov/ftpdocs/108xx/doc10868/12-19-Reid_Letter_Managers_Correction_Noted.pdf) that the Senate bill reduces the deficit in year ten. It would reduce the deficit by more than a trillion dollars (http://thehill.com/homenews/senate/73079-cbo-health-bill-spends-871b-reduces-deficit-by-132b) in the next ten years.

[...]

Now, Democrats did not refute Ryan's claim. The following speaker was Democratic Rep. Xavier Becerra, who failed to take the point on at all. (It was another instance (http://www.tnr.com/blog/jonathan-chait/first-reaction-the-health-care-summit) of Obama letting his teammates try, unsuccessfully, to make a layup instead of grabbing the ball and dunking.)

Wonderment
02-25-2010, 06:11 PM
Obama may be debating a brick wall, but he has also gagged progressives, none of whom were invited to the Summit.

Also, does being the bi-partisan president mean that you underrepresent minorities and women at your summits?

Just wondrin'

AemJeff
02-25-2010, 06:17 PM
Obama may be debating a brick wall, but he has also gagged progressives, none of whom were invited to the Summit.

Also, does being the bi-partisan president mean that you underrepresent minorities and women at your summits?

Just wondrin'

Obama and Pelosi were probably the two most powerful people in the room, don't you think?

bjkeefe
02-25-2010, 06:32 PM
Obama and Pelosi were probably the two most powerful people in the room, don't you think?

. (http://farm1.static.flickr.com/119/294168009_b25decaddf.jpg)

Wonderment
02-25-2010, 07:46 PM
Obama and Pelosi were probably the two most powerful people in the room, don't you think?

Yes, Pelosi counts as one of four women from Congress invited.

Here's the breakdown: 4 women of 36. 1 Latino of 36, 2 African Americans of 36, 0 Asian Americans of 36, 0 Native Americans of 36.

88 Dems. in Congress have endorsed single payer H.R.676. One was at the summit (the Latino dude).



Harry Reid (Nevada) Senate majority leader

Dick Durbin (Illinois) assistant Senate majority leader

Charles Schumer (New York) Democratic conference vice chairman

Patty Murray (Washington) Democratic conference secretary

Max Baucus (Montana) Senate finance committee chairman

Chris Dodd (Connecticut) Senate banking committee chairman

Tom Harkin (Iowa) Senate Health, Education, Labour and Pensions (Help) committee chairman

Jay Rockefeller (West Virginia) Senate finance subcommittee on healthcare chairman

Kent Conrad (North Dakota) Senate budget committee chairman

Senate Republicans

Mitch McConnell (Kentucky) Senate Republican leader

Jon Kyl (Arizona) Senate Republican whip Lamar

Alexander (Tennessee) Senate Republican conference chairman

Chuck Grassley (Iowa) ranking member of the Senate finance committee

Mike Enzi, (Wyoming) ranking member of the Senate Help committee

John McCain (Arizona) Help committee

Dr Tom Coburn (Oklahoma) Help committee

Dr John Barrasso (Wyoming)

House Democrats

Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-CA

Steny Hoyer, D-MD, Majority Leader

James Clyburn, D-SC, Majority Whip

Charles Rangel, D-NY, Chairman of the Ways and Committee

Henry Waxman, D-CA, Chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee

George Miller, D-CA, Chairman of the Education and Labor Committee

John Dingell, D-MI, Chair Emeritus of the Energy and Commerce Committee

Xavier Becerra, D-CA

Louise Slaughter, D-NY

Robert Andrews, D-NJ

Jim Cooper, D-TN

House Republicans

John Boehner (Ohio) House Republican leader

Eric Cantor (Virginia) Republican whip

Joe Barton (Texas) Ranking Republican on the energy and commerce committee

Dave Camp (Michigan) Ranking Republican on the ways and means committee

John Kline (Minnesota) Ranking Republican on the education and labour committee

Marsha Blackburn (Tennessee)

Dr Charles Boustany (Louisiana)

Peter Roskam (Illinois)

Paul Ryan (Wisconsin)

Wonderment
02-25-2010, 07:54 PM
Off the table, out the door, buried deep underground.

Public Option (http://voices.washingtonpost.com/thefix/white-house/winners-and-losers-from-the-he.html?hpid=topnews): House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (Md.) were the only ones to mention the issue that dominated the health care debate for months on end last fall -- and that was in the context of it being sacrificed as a compromise to Republicans. And, as Fix colleague Alec MacGillis pointed out, Obama was very careful to emphasize that people shopping for coverage on the new health insurance exchanges he is proposing would be choosing only among 'private plans.'"

claymisher
02-25-2010, 08:00 PM
The point is to get the fucking bill passed, not to score points with liberals.

Anyway, Waxman, Slaughter, and George Miller are progressives. The Senators tilted progressive:

VERMONT I SANDERS
WISCONS D FEINGOLD
RHODE I D WHITEHOUSE
ILLINOI D DURBIN
IOWA D HARKIN
MASSACH D KERRY JOHN
OHIO D BROWN
MARYLAN D CARDIN
MARYLAN D MIKULSKI
ILLINOI D BURRIS
NEW JER D LAUTENBERG
NEW YOR D GILLIBRAND
WASHING D MURRAY
WASHING D CANTWELL
DELAWAR D CARPER
HAWAII D INOUYE
MICHIGA D LEVIN CARL
NEW JER D MENENDEZ
RHODE I D REED
HAWAII D AKAKA
DELAWAR D KAUFMAN
WEST VI D ROCKEFELLER
CONNECT D DODD
NEW YOR D SCHUMER
CALIFOR D FEINSTEIN
CALIFOR D BOXER
MICHIGA D STABENOW
MINNESO D FRANKEN
OREGON D WYDEN
VERMONT D LEAHY
NEW MEX D BINGAMAN
OREGON D MERKLEY
NEW HAM D SHAHEEN
FLORIDA D NELSON
WISCONS D KOHL
NEW MEX D UDALL
NEVADA D REID
COLORAD D UDALL
VIRGINI D WARNER
COLORAD D BENNET
PENNSYL D CASEY
ALASKA D BEGICH
SOUTH D D JOHNSON
NORTH C D HAGAN
WEST VI D BYRD ROBER
MONTANA D TESTER
MONTANA D BAUCUS
LOUISIA D LANDRIEU
PENNSYL D SPECTER
MINNESO D KLOBUCHAR
ARKANSA D PRYOR
NORTH D D CONRAD
VIRGINI D WEBB
NORTH D D DORGAN
ARKANSA D LINCOLN
MISSOUR D MCCASKILL
INDIANA D BAYH
NEBRASK D NELSON BEN
CONNECT D LIEBERMAN

I don't know if smearing Obama makes you feel righteous or what, but I don't see the point.

look
02-25-2010, 08:12 PM
Obama may be debating a brick wall, but he has also gagged progressives, none of whom were invited to the Summit.

Also, does being the bi-partisan president mean that you underrepresent minorities and women at your summits?

Just wondrin'He's only one man.

TwinSwords
02-25-2010, 08:18 PM
Here's the breakdown: 4 women of 36. 1 Latino of 36, 2 African Americans of 36, 0 Asian Americans of 36, 0 Native Americans of 36.

Wonderment,

Did Obama select the 18 Republicans who attended the summit? Or was it actually up to the Republicans to select their participants?

For that matter, is Obama the one who selected the Democrats who attended? Or was it up to Pelosi and Reid to select the 18 Democratic participants?

Baltimoron
02-25-2010, 08:21 PM
Shorter Republicans:

Why don't you just be reasonable and enact all of our proposals and none of the Democrats'?

No, it's: Don't die until the GOP gets back into power, so it can pass this same bill. And, we'll do it cheaper. You, average voter, don't need to send us the contributions those idiot Dems wasted thinking they were anointing a messiah. We'll take the corporate candy the Dems got this last round!

TwinSwords
02-25-2010, 08:24 PM
In case it's not clear to some readers, the list of Senators posted by Clay shows Democrats ranked from most progressive to least progressive, with the bolded names indicating those who participated in the summit.

The list clearly shows the Senators participating in today's summit were skewed towards the progressive end of the distribution.

Wonderment
02-25-2010, 08:47 PM
I don't know if smearing Obama makes you feel righteous or what, but I don't see the point.

My deepest apologies. I will henceforth be guided only by Democratic Party Machine talking points.

And I will always support my president, no matter what. Who wouldn't? He makes such inspiring speeches. Sigh.

claymisher
02-25-2010, 08:50 PM
My deepest apologies. I will henceforth be guided only by Democratic Party Machine talking points.

And I will always support my president, no matter what. Who wouldn't? He makes such inspiring speeches. Sigh.

Sarcasm!

TwinSwords
02-25-2010, 08:56 PM
My deepest apologies. I will henceforth be guided only by Democratic Party Machine talking points.

And I will always support my president, no matter what. Who wouldn't? He makes such inspiring speeches. Sigh.

Wonderment,
Did Obama actually select the 18 Democrats and 18 Republicans who attended today's summit?

look
02-25-2010, 08:57 PM
My deepest apologies. I will henceforth be guided only by Democratic Party Machine talking points.

And I will always support my president, no matter what. Who wouldn't? He makes such inspiring speeches. Sigh.Love you, Wondie, but I think of the Scorpion crossing the river on the back of the Frog when I think of you supporting Obama. I don't mean to be cruel, just honest. On the other hand, Obama is only one man. Maybe the man of the moment.

TwinSwords
02-25-2010, 09:01 PM
Love you, Wondie, but I think of the Scorpion crossing the river on the back of the Frog when I think of you supporting Obama. I don't mean to be cruel, just honest.

Absolutely perfect allusion.

The Frog and The Scorpion

An old American Indian tale adapted from 'The Indian and The Snake'.

One day a frog was sitting by the bank of the river enjoying the warm sun and cool breeze. It so happened that a scorpion approached him rather quickly as to inquire about crossing the river. "Frog", said the scorpion, "I am in need of passage across the river upon your back. I am prepared to pay you with this mealworm that I have not eaten."

The frog thought about it for a moment, then replied "Scorpion, I know that if I grant you a ride across the river upon my back, you will poison me on the other side. For that alone I shall say 'no thanks'."

"Frog", again said the scorpion, "Please, I have no wish to harm you, I promise. I just need to go across the river to find more food. There is nothing left on this side for me to eat."

The frog thought about it again for a moment and then agreed to help the scorpion get across the river.

Half way across, the frog felt a rather sharp, stinging sensation in his back. The scorpion had stuck him with his venom. "SCORPION!", cried the frog, "You have killed me and you as well. Why have you done this?"

"Because I am a scorpion...and that is my nature."

Ocean
02-25-2010, 09:29 PM
Why are so many people from both sides giving so much weight in decision making to polls? Polls are new to the political process. Do we know how to interpret them or how to use them for the legislative process? House and Senate have rules about the number of votes needed to pass different kinds of bills. What would be the equivalent for polls?


Seriously, is it the case that people are assuming that polls represent more than what we know they do? Aren't we forgetting that the political process doesn't include polls and if they were to be included there would have to be rules created?

It just sounds very phony to me when someone says "the American people want this or that..." and they invoke a certain poll of which we really know nothing. Often times once examined it turns out to have been a biased set of questions that lack any relevant meaning.

Wonderment
02-25-2010, 09:50 PM
Love you, Wondie, but I think of the Scorpion crossing the river on the back of the Frog when I think of you supporting Obama.

Oh, you mean that Obama will sting the people who campaigned and voted for him, even if it means he goes down in flames along with his base?

Yes, I agree.

Here is my official statement on my relationship to the president:

Ribbit, ribbit! (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y2FPPVLmmzk)

look
02-25-2010, 09:58 PM
Oh, you mean that Obama will sting the people who campaigned and voted for him, even if it means he goes down in flames along with his base?

Yes, I agree.

Here is my official statement on my relationship to the president:

Ribbit, ribbit! (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y2FPPVLmmzk)No, I mean you knew, ya know?

bjkeefe
02-25-2010, 11:59 PM
Why are so many people from both sides giving so much weight in decision making to polls? Polls are new to the political process. Do we know how to interpret them or how to use them for the legislative process? House and Senate have rules about the number of votes needed to pass different kinds of bills. What would be the equivalent for polls?


Seriously, is it the case that people are assuming that polls represent more than what we know they do? Aren't we forgetting that the political process doesn't include polls and if they were to be included there would have to be rules created?

It just sounds very phony to me when someone says "the American people want this or that..." and they invoke a certain poll of which we really know nothing. Often times once examined it turns out to have been a biased set of questions that lack any relevant meaning.

Any time the cameras are on, the overwhelming majority of politicians are going to say nothing but talking points. Citing poll results is an easy way to sound like you're talking about "facts," and it adds a gloss of Science! to the ancient tactic of saying "the American people want" X.

It's really no different from most of the ideological bickering that goes on in this forum -- people have a belief, whether ingrained or paid for by campaign donors, and they look for ways to support that belief.

Cynicism aside, given that in our system our political leaders are supposed to represent the wishes of the people, I cannot entirely fault polling as part of the political process.

bjkeefe
02-26-2010, 12:00 AM
The point is to get the fucking bill passed, not to score points with liberals.

Hear, hear.

I wish the firebaggers would recognize this is a half a loaf situation, with a better chance to get more later if we get some now, and stop being so fucking petulant and holier-than-thou.

bjkeefe
02-26-2010, 12:37 AM
... and 95% expecting they'd do what all reports say they're doing, with the idea that he [Obama] could illustrate how intransigent they're still being, so that he can push ahead with passage without them.

Hope so, anyway. It'll be interesting to see how the MSM covers it.

Here's a small sign of hope: the NYT already has an editorial up that is about as much as I could expect from them in saying what should be said (http://www.nytimes.com/2010/02/26/opinion/26fri1.html).

The lede:

The main lesson to draw from Thursdayís health care forum is that differences between Democrats and Republicans are too profound to be bridged. That means that it is up to the Democrats to fix the countryís dysfunctional and hugely costly health care system.

The money line, for me at least:

Mr. Obama should jettison any illusions that he can win Republican support by making a few more changes in bills that already include many Republican ideas.

bjkeefe
02-26-2010, 12:50 AM
... and 95% expecting they'd do what all reports say they're doing, with the idea that he could illustrate how intransigent they're still being, so that he can push ahead with passage without them.

Hope so, anyway. It'll be interesting to see how the MSM covers it.

Here's a small sign of hope: the NYT already has an editorial up that is about as much as I could expect from them in saying what should be said (http://www.nytimes.com/2010/02/26/opinion/26fri1.html).

Krugman, of course, knocks it out of the park with "Afflicting the Afflicted." (http://www.nytimes.com/2010/02/26/opinion/26krugman.html). I would love to offer an excerpt, but his whole column is too good to pick just a piece.

Hat tip to DougJ (http://www.balloon-juice.com/2010/02/26/a-tale-of-two-pundits/), whose juxtaposition of part of the above with a Bobo quote should not be missed.

bjkeefe
02-26-2010, 01:27 AM
DougJ passes along some encouraging news (http://www.balloon-juice.com/2010/02/25/something-happened/):

Something happened

Josh Marshall (http://www.talkingpointsmemo.com/archives/2010/02/so_who_watched.php?ref=fpblg) has a smart post about how many people were paying attention to todayís HCR summit:

[O]ver the years Iíve gotten a pretty good feel for how different kinds of political events bump traffic on TPM. And there was a much bigger bump than I would have expected for an event like this.

We had our second-highest traffic day today in the time that Iíve been here. The first highest was the State of the Union in January.

I donít know what this means, but I think that today was significant. It may have been Kabuki theater, but isnít all politics?

[Added] And do not miss the first comment under DougJ's post. And, of course, click the clicky to Ezra's post there offered.

bjkeefe
02-26-2010, 03:32 AM
... how "America's Shittiest Website" (http://www.google.com/search?q=%22America%27s+Shittiest+Website%22) (they're #1!!!1!) reacted to the summit?

Roy's got you covered. (http://alicublog.blogspot.com/2010/02/full-day.html)

bjkeefe
02-26-2010, 03:49 AM
... how "America's Shittiest Website" (http://www.google.com/search?q=%22America%27s+Shittiest+Website%22) (they're #1!!!1!) reacted to the summit?

Roy's got you covered. (http://alicublog.blogspot.com/2010/02/full-day.html)

The rePubOLITICO was not much better (http://www.balloon-juice.com/2010/02/26/the-childrens-table/).

bjkeefe
02-26-2010, 04:09 AM
Hear, hear.

I wish the firebaggers would recognize this is a half a loaf situation, with a better chance to get more later if we get some now, and stop being so fucking petulant and holier-than-thou.

And to follow up, here are some thoughts from BooMan (http://www.boomantribune.com/story/2010/2/25/124149/846) (via (http://instaputz.blogspot.com/2010/02/qotd_25.html)):

How Watching Republicans Changed My Worldview

I have to say that regardless of what happens, I'll always be grateful to Barack Obama for attempting to get our elected officials to act like adults and take the people's problems seriously. As he tries to iron out a decent set of health care reforms that will help millions of people, the right-wing is doing things like this (http://thinkprogress.org/2010/02/25/missile-defense-logo-conspiracy/). It's ridiculous. It's frustrating and aggravating. But it won't ever change. Which, by the way, is why I've given up thinking about politics in terms of what government can accomplish and instead have come to the conclusion that the most important thing in politics is simply keeping the Republicans out of power. It isn't an inspiring philosophy, but it isn't based in cynicism either. I still believe in progressive governance, and I think most progressive ideas are good policy and good politics, so I don't argue for trimming our sails. I worry that trimming our sails is exactly what puts the larger goal of keeping the Republicans out of power at risk.

But, ultimately, the Republicans are extremely dangerous and their ideas will hurt people both here at home and abroad. Look what they did to the fiscal health and international reputation of this country in eight short years! Dick Cheney is not uniquely insane and George W. Bush is not uniquely incompetent. They are probably slightly above average in their sanity and competence within their party.

TwinSwords
02-26-2010, 06:13 AM
Oh, you mean that Obama will sting the people who campaigned and voted for him, even if it means he goes down in flames along with his base?
Funny how these things can be interpreted in more than one way. Because it seems to me you hitched a ride with the Democrats in hopes of finding Nirvana, but are now determined to sink the ship before we have a chance to accomplish anything.

TwinSwords
02-26-2010, 06:14 AM
Dick Durbin blows the medical malpractice talking point out of the water (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uHqhCbxu2wk&feature=player_embedded#).

Ocean
02-26-2010, 07:36 AM
Cynicism aside, given that in our system our political leaders are supposed to represent the wishes of the people, I cannot entirely fault polling as part of the political process.

I started with the premise that polling has become part of the political process, and I don't discount that there may be a role for it. My argument refers to how polls are going to be interpreted. It's all too easy to accept poll results without questioning how it was done, or what the numbers may reflect. And when it refers to certain important legislation, should we only take polls into account when the results are 60-40? If polls vary from day to day on a given topic, what does that mean? How do you decide which one is the "good one" to be considered? Otherwise, we may be making a whole lot out of nonsensical fluctuations in public opinion.

cragger
02-26-2010, 11:54 PM
Its's quite possible that polls tend to over represent the most politically agitated, who are eager to make their voice heard in any venue. There seem to be even more of these than post on the BH boards.

Some others of us have come to routinely decline to participate in polls and surveys after encountering cases in which it becomes obvious that the "opinion survey" is actually a marketing survey or a couple questions about some issue that are a lead-in to a fundraising or even sales pitch. I expect that a fair number of folks have also become adept at identifying nearly any call that includes the delay from the time the phone is answered until someone sees that the auto-dialer has a hit and connects to the line, and detecting the cadence of the background voices in a boiler room full of phone jockeys and learned to hang up immediately.

So beyond the issue of the response bias that is at times built into polling questions, given the relatively modest numbers involved in many polls of "randomly selected" voters, responders may self-select somewhat by declining, leading to a subset slanted toward the most partisan, most angry, and so on.

bjkeefe
02-27-2010, 12:03 AM
Its's quite possible that polls tend to over represent the most politically agitated, who are eager to make their voice heard in any venue. There seem to be even more of these than post on the BH boards.

Some others of us have come to routinely decline to participate in polls and surveys after encountering cases in which it becomes obvious that the "opinion survey" is actually a marketing survey or a couple questions about some issue that are a lead-in to a fundraising or even sales pitch. I expect that a fair number of folks have also become adept at identifying nearly any call that includes the delay from the time the phone is answered until someone sees that the auto-dialer has a hit and connects to the line, and detecting the cadence of the background voices in a boiler room full of phone jockeys and learned to hang up immediately.

So beyond the issue of the response bias that is at times built into polling questions, given the relatively modest numbers involved in many polls of "randomly selected" voters, responders may self-select somewhat by declining, leading to a subset slanted toward the most partisan, most angry, and so on.

I don't think I buy that. Reputable polling firms have spent enormous amounts of time and thought on how to best get a representative sample.

I think you are overlooking the fact that most polls are done for ~1000 respondents, which means the odds are quite good that no one from, say, Gallup, has ever tried to get in touch with you to ask what you think about candidates, issues, etc.

I do grant that there are a ton of dubious poll-like phone calls made, as you describe, but I think you might not be a typical example of how people react. I, for example, will almost always answer poll-type questions over the phone, just because I'm either curious or amused.

Bear in mind that when we can test the predictive power of polls (pre-election vs actual election results, for example), the good companies all come pretty close to getting it right.

Ocean
02-27-2010, 12:14 AM
You are describing some of the possible sampling bias.

There are other problems with the design of polls. The wording of the questions as well as the possible preset answers may be picking up aspects of public opinion that don't have the same meaning that the pollsters give them.

Even if the poll was very well designed to pick up definite, unambiguous opinion, the next level of difficulty is how to weigh that opinion. At the legislative level there is an understanding that for certain kinds of bills, a simple majority of votes suffices. For other pieces of legislation, like HCR, 60 votes are needed in the Senate. Does that kind of reasoning apply to the way polls are interpreted or used? For example is it enough that on a certain topic the results are 43-39, with 18% undecided or neutral. These are results drawn from the general public which may or may not be even informed about the topic being explored. How meaningful is it in terms of "what the American people want? For HCR, for example, 51 votes in the Senate are not enough to say that's what "the Senate wants". Why? Should we be thinking along the same lines for polling?

Just curious about the process.

uncle ebeneezer
02-27-2010, 12:47 AM
Nate Silver's election analysis pretty much convinced me that some of these people really know their stuff.

Florian
02-27-2010, 06:47 AM
Any time the cameras are on, the overwhelming majority of politicians are going to say nothing but talking points. Citing poll results is an easy way to sound like you're talking about "facts," and it adds a gloss of Science! to the ancient tactic of saying "the American people want" X.

It's really no different from most of the ideological bickering that goes on in this forum -- people have a belief, whether ingrained or paid for by campaign donors, and they look for ways to support that belief.

Cynicism aside, given that in our system our political leaders are supposed to represent the wishes of the people, I cannot entirely fault polling as part of the political process.

True, but the purpose of legislators is to define, formulate and enact laws that serve the common good. Opinion polls express (at best) the changing wishes of individuals. Legislators, it seems to me, represent or should try to represent the permanent will of the majority. If I may quote a passage from Rousseau's Social Contract (Book 2 ch. 6):

"By itself the people always wills the good; but by itself it does not always see it. The general will is always upright, but the judgment which guides it is not always enlightened. It must be made to see objects as they are, sometimes as they should appear to it, shown the good path which it is seeking and secured against seduction by particular wills [....] Individuals see the good they reject, the public wills the good it does not see. All are equally in need of guides: The first (individuals) must be obligated to conform their wills to their reason; the other (the public) must be taught to know what it wills."

Contemporary translation: The majority of Americans see the good (a fair and affordable system of health care), but they reject it because they wrongly believe that they the current system is fair and affordable. Congress (the public) wills the good but fails to see it because legislators are seduced by particular wills (= lobbies).

As long as lobbies prevail in Congress, it is difficult to see how the general will can be made to prevail.

bjkeefe
02-27-2010, 09:19 AM
True, but the purpose of legislators is to define, formulate and enact laws that serve the common good.

Yes, I agree. That is the ideal we're after, at least.

Opinion polls express (at best) the changing wishes of individuals.

I don't agree with "at best." There are times when a wave of hysteria, or wishful thinking, or whatever, sweeps through the populace, to be sure. But then there are also times when we could say (some large fraction of) the population has settled on a particular view.

I'll grant that the latter is also subject to change, but over much longer time scales. I'm thinking, say, of a poll question like "Do you think an X could be qualified to serve as president?" A few decades ago, you'd likely have gotten a majority "no" for woman, black or gay person, etc., where now you wouldn't, and I think both times the poll would be measuring something real and not just a momentary flight of fancy or fear.

Thus ...

Legislators, it seems to me, represent or should try to represent the permanent will of the majority.

... I'm not sure how many things I can think of that qualify as "permanent." But if you mean something less than literal, as with my example of changing attitudes about non-(straight white men) as the only type fit to be president, we're mostly agreed.

The question then becomes, of course, how does one know what the permanent will of the majority is?

If I may quote a passage from Rousseau's Social Contract (Book 2 ch. 6):

"By itself the people always wills the good; but by itself it does not always see it. The general will is always upright, but the judgment which guides it is not always enlightened. It must be made to see objects as they are, sometimes as they should appear to it, shown the good path which it is seeking and secured against seduction by particular wills [....] Individuals see the good they reject, the public wills the good it does not see. All are equally in need of guides: The first (individuals) must be obligated to conform their wills to their reason; the other (the public) must be taught to know what it wills."

Again, nice in the ideal. However, even allowing for the artifacts introduced by translation and the difference in time, the above is poised right on the edge of those in power saying "We should do this even though everyone is screaming not to, because we know what's best for them, and they'll thank us in the long run." Which sounds an awful lot like the rationalizations uttered by the Bushies about their invasion of Iraq, for example.

Contemporary translation: The majority of Americans see the good (a fair and affordable system of health care), but they reject it because they wrongly believe that they the current system is fair and affordable. Congress (the public) wills the good but fails to see it because legislators are seduced by particular wills (= lobbies).

Here is another instance where polling, in some senses, helped keep the push for HCR alive: we have a large body of data showing that before the bills actually started being hammered out, a strong majority was in favor of the general principles sought by the Dems; e.g., some minimum of universal coverage, some way to keep the insurance companies from rejecting you if you had a preexisting condition, some way to be sure you could keep your insurance without going broke if you lost or changed jobs, etc. I strongly believe that helped keep many of the waverers on board the past year.

It is a point on your side, though, that once the sausage-making began, it was easy to come up with poll results where you could show the (uninformed) populace was suddenly "against."

As long as lobbies prevail in Congress, it is difficult to see how the general will can be made to prevail.

True to no small degree. However, I would say that I don't much accept the concept of a general will when it comes to each and every specific issue. I also believe that a small group may care greatly about a given issue, and that there is nothing wrong with this, in principle. Finally, we do have to pay some mind to the worries about tyranny of the majority, even if we pretend we could perfectly know the will of the majority.

In other words, this is similar to the quandary I find myself in when it comes to campaign finance reform: I acknowledge we have a problem, and that people have figured out how to game our system to the point where it's thoroughly warped. But I still think the principles (free speech and a right to petition the government for a redress of grievances, for example) are worth preserving, despite how they've been cynically employed, so I am at a loss to see how we should address the manner.

Ocean
02-27-2010, 10:13 AM
I'll grant that the latter is also subject to change, but over much longer time scales. I'm thinking, say, of a poll question like "Do you think an X could be qualified to serve as president?" A few decades ago, you'd likely have gotten a majority "no" for woman, black or gay person, etc., where now you wouldn't, and I think both times the poll would be measuring something real and not just a momentary flight of fancy or fear.


The degree of complexity of the question, or the complexity of decision making for a particular topic, may make the polling reflect more or less closely what people really want. If you ask people what icecream flavor they like, the answers are going to be highly reliable. If you ask them whether passing legislation "A" which will affect various aspects of their lives, some positively and some negatively, with different immediate and long term effects, the answers are not going to be very reliable and may not reflect what people "really want". The answers are going to depend heavily on how the questions are formulated, what information people have had access to, etc.

When I hear about a poll result, those are the questions that come to my mind. How were the questions asked? What would the same respondents have answered if the questions were formulated differently or if they had had access to information related to the question beforehand?

Because of the complexity of this kind of decision making, direct democracy doesn't work except for the smallest, most select groups. Representatives, democratically elected, can (hopefully) go through the process of gathering the necessary information, and discussion before making a decision (vote). This is the preferred mechanism for legislation. Trying to revert it by collecting uninformed public opinion seems like an undoing of the democratic process by representation. I do agree that it is very helpful to have a sense about what people think and to avoid a detached government, but politicians need to be aware of the limitations of the method used, and only rely on polls that are conducted with the least biased methodology.

bjkeefe
02-27-2010, 10:42 AM
[...]

I quite agree with all of that. In particular, I am not by any means advocating legislating purely based on surveys. (On a closely related note, you may recall that I have several times expressed loathing for my old state's overuse of the referendum process.)

However, in a republic/representative democracy, we do have to have some means of informing the legislators about what the people want, and given that the ratio of representatives to represented is too unwieldy to make it possible to interview every citizen, polling -- however imperfect -- is a useful tool.

Ocean
02-27-2010, 10:52 AM
... polling -- however imperfect -- is a useful tool.

I'm not sure why we're stuck on this point, but I'll try again.

Polling, if conducted with good methodology, unbiased, for relatively simpler issues, is a useful tool.

If polling is too "imperfect", not only it may become meaningless, but it could be detrimental by further confusing the public and their representatives. Can you see this last possibility happening?

bjkeefe
02-27-2010, 11:12 AM
I'm not sure why we're stuck on this point, but I'll try again.

Polling, if conducted with good methodology, unbiased, for relatively simpler issues, is a useful tool.

If polling is too "imperfect", not only it may become meaningless, but it could be detrimental by further confusing the public and their representatives. Can you see this last possibility happening?

Sure. I'd even add that there is no shortage of examples of people consciously abusing polling (or "polling"); i.e., with the very intent of producing a misleading result. This is why I look with a gimlet eye upon, say, issues polling results produced by Rasmussen when they've been hired by conservative outfits or Research 2000 results when they've been hired by Kos.

I don't think we're really in disagreement. We seem to agree that polling can be useful, and may even be the best we can do in some senses, but that it also can be useless or even detrimental. My only aim in this subthread is to emphasize the both the benefit and necessity of polling as one of our tools of democracy, imperfect though both polling and our democracy are.

I think the thing to keep in mind, and this may be what you're seeking to emphasize, is that we can't just take a poll result and hold it up with the same confidence as, say, the result of an arithmetical computation. One really has to look carefully at the questions, the methodology, and the societal context in which the poll was taken.

Ocean
02-27-2010, 11:37 AM
I think the thing to keep in mind, and this may be what you're seeking to emphasize, is that we can't just take a poll result and hold it up with the same confidence as, say, the result of an arithmetical computation. One really has to look carefully at the questions, the methodology, and the societal context in which the poll was taken.

Yes, I agree. The motivation behind my comment is coming from what I see as a manipulative use of polls. If pollsters were operating in good faith, without agendas and truly trying to reflect accurately public opinion, then we could move on to consider how to use that accurate information for the political process. The problem arises when even this first step is being misused.

Again, since polling is rather new to the political process, the first tendency is to believe literally what polls seem to say. Perhaps the public will have to be educated about how to interpret them or pollsters need to be regulated (?)

The question mark is placed there because I'm not sure that regulation is possible or desirable. And to avoid libertarians rolling their eyes. ;)

bjkeefe
02-27-2010, 11:59 AM
Yes, I agree. The motivation behind my comment is coming from what I see as a manipulative use of polls. If pollsters were operating in good faith, without agendas and truly trying to reflect accurately public opinion, then we could move on to consider how to use that accurate information for the political process. The problem arises when even this first step is being misused.

We humans have never invented a sword that didn't have two edges.

Again, since polling is rather new to the political process, the first tendency is to believe literally what polls seem to say. Perhaps the public will have to be educated about how to interpret them or pollsters need to be regulated (?)

The question mark is placed there because I'm not sure that regulation is possible or desirable. And to avoid libertarians rolling their eyes. ;)

I am glad you put the question mark there, because I sure shuddered.

The only regulation I want on pollsters is public opinion and watchdogging, a la Nate Silver and friends. I don't think you can have any oversight of this sort without implicitly assuming we have a way to come up with a superior class of people. Which, obviously, we don't.

Which reminds me ... We do have this in some limited sense -- the basis of polling is statistics, which is, after all, a branch of mathematics, and as such, we have at least some useful constraints.

I point out that we have already achieved an important milestone to the point where we take it for granted: virtually no one will present the results of a non-scientific poll without that disclaimer. This may be due to one of American history's most famous pictures (http://images.google.com/images?q=dewey+defeats+truman), but however it came about, the importance of a polling firm's reputation to itself is not something to dismiss out of hand, especially in light of how much other nonsense is foisted on, and gobbled up by, the public.

uncle ebeneezer
02-27-2010, 12:02 PM
Good discussion. To sum up: Polling- when done right it's great and useful, when misused, it sucks and is total bullshit.

I would love to see a diavlog with say Mark Schmitt and Nate Silver on the methods, reliability and ethics of polling.

cragger
02-27-2010, 12:57 PM
I don't think I buy that. Reputable polling firms have spent enormous amounts of time and thought on how to best get a representative sample.

While I suspect that they do in fact attempt to include respondents from various demographic, geographic, and ethnic groups and so on, I don't know how they would compensate for those who are just less willing to deal with pollsters. Maybe they tend to largely cancel out in terms of polling results.

I do grant that there are a ton of dubious poll-like phone calls made, as you describe, but I think you might not be a typical example ...

Indeed I may not be typical. More's the pity, though there is surprising difference of opinion on that point.

I, for example, will almost always answer poll-type questions over the phone, just because I'm either curious or amused.

Which may in fact support my proposal, you being someone rather more politically agit... er, engaged than the average bear.

Bear in mind that when we can test the predictive power of polls (pre-election vs actual election results, for example), the good companies all come pretty close to getting it right.

I haven't suggested a dominant factor, just a possible confounding factor that may be part of the errors. It is also possible that there is a degree, however large or small, of polls and the attendant media attention acting to some extent as self-fufilling prophecies. I'm not sure how one would go about determining such a thing, but as a bit of an aside, I would be interested to know how many people tend to skip voting for candidate X for example when that candidate is perceived as the one who will win, and how many skip voting for the expected loser as a waste of time. As with other areas of psychology such as loss aversion, the response may be asymmetric.

Ocean
02-27-2010, 01:04 PM
Good discussion. To sum up: Polling- when done right it's great and useful, when misused, it sucks and is total bullshit.

I would love to see a diavlog with say Mark Schmitt and Nate Silver on the methods, reliability and ethics of polling.

I second that.

Ocean
02-27-2010, 01:06 PM
Statistics (and math) can't fix bad methodology or a biased questionnaire.

The rest I agree with.

claymisher
02-27-2010, 02:14 PM
Nate Silver's election analysis pretty much convinced me that some of these people really know their stuff.

That was election polling. Opinion polling is a whole different deal.

uncle ebeneezer
02-27-2010, 02:24 PM
Aah, good point. A diavlog about the challenges/differences would still be quite welcome.

bjkeefe
02-27-2010, 03:04 PM
Statistics (and math) can't fix bad methodology or a biased questionnaire.

No, but in the first case, they can support solid critiques, and have improved the state of the art.

The second: agreed. Nothing to do but to demand to see the full report when someone cites a poll result.

The rest I agree with.

Hurrah!

bjkeefe
02-27-2010, 03:14 PM
While I suspect that they do in fact attempt to include respondents from various demographic, geographic, and ethnic groups and so on, I don't know how they would compensate for those who are just less willing to deal with pollsters. Maybe they tend to largely cancel out in terms of polling results.

That would be my guess, too, though I still suspect (1) the number of people who choose not to participate in polls is small, and (2) there are likely a large number of people whom the questioners can't get in touch with for other reasons of people not answering their phones, so I'd think active non-participants would further get lost in the noise.

However, I do concede the effect is probably non-zero and may be growing.

I, for example, will almost always answer poll-type questions over the phone, just because I'm either curious or amused.
Which may in fact support my proposal, you being someone rather more politically agit... er, engaged than the average bear.

Good point.

It is also possible that there is a degree, however large or small, of polls and the attendant media attention acting to some extent as self-fufilling prophecies.

I wouldn't be surprised. Mob psychology often feeds on itself.

I'm not sure how one would go about determining such a thing, but as a bit of an aside, I would be interested to know how many people tend to skip voting for candidate X for example when that candidate is perceived as the one who will win, and how many skip voting for the expected loser as a waste of time. As with other areas of psychology such as loss aversion, the response may be asymmetric.

I dunno. I most often hear that people tend to gravitate towards a winner, so that someone up in the polls gets a few extra votes just for that reason alone, but I also hear almost as often that people will not bother to vote for someone they support who's perceived as "going to win anyway." (This second phenomenon can have significant down-ballot effects in western states.)

I don't know how rigorous any of this wisdom is, though.

Florian
02-28-2010, 07:29 AM
I don't agree with "at best." There are times when a wave of hysteria, or wishful thinking, or whatever, sweeps through the populace, to be sure. But then there are also times when we could say (some large fraction of) the population has settled on a particular view..

Yes, but the US is not, and never has been, a direct democracy. It is a constitutional republic. Once the people have cast their votes they have entrusted their representatives with the task of hammering out the details of legislation. The "general will," if you like, is the result of this process.

Government by opinion polls would be the nearest thing to direct democracy in a country as large as the US. It would also be a disaster given the enormous power of the mass media to misinform the public. Some think the US may be rapidly approaching such a disaster....

I'm not sure how many things I can think of that qualify as "permanent." But if you mean something less than literal, as with my example of changing attitudes about non-(straight white men) as the only type fit to be president, we're mostly agreed..

Racial and other kinds of bias which deny a certain category of person rights or exclude him/her from office are of course unjust and could never be justified. This is one of the basic meanings of the "general will" : everyone is equal before the law.

The question then becomes, of course, how does one know what the permanent will of the majority is?.

That is precisely the question Rousseau was addressing. Every legitimate state is made up of a "government" (legislature, executive, and judiciary) and a people that submits to the governement. Once you see the significance of that fact, i.e. that the government and the people often have separate wills, you begin to understand how difficult it is to know what the will of the majority is. (I shouldn't have used the word "permanent" since obviously, as you point out, the people as a whole can change its mind).

Again, nice in the ideal. However, even allowing for the artifacts introduced by translation and the difference in time, the above is poised right on the edge of those in power saying "We should do this even though everyone is screaming not to, because we know what's best for them, and they'll thank us in the long run." Which sounds an awful lot like the rationalizations uttered by the Bushies about their invasion of Iraq, for example..

This gets to the tricky and imo insoluble problem of the relationship between the executive and legislative branches. Unfortunately, the evolution of American institutions has been towards granting the president great lattitude in declaring and waging wars. Strictly speaking, acts of the executive are not expressions of the general will.

True to no small degree. However, I would say that I don't much accept the concept of a general will when it comes to each and every specific issue. .

True enough. Most of the legislation passed by modern states is bureaucratic and administrative in nature.

I also believe that a small group may care greatly about a given issue, and that there is nothing wrong with this, in principle. Finally, we do have to pay some mind to the worries about tyranny of the majority, even if we pretend we could perfectly know the will of the majority.

In other words, this is similar to the quandary I find myself in when it comes to campaign finance reform: I acknowledge we have a problem, and that people have figured out how to game our system to the point where it's thoroughly warped. But I still think the principles (free speech and a right to petition the government for a redress of grievances, for example) are worth preserving, despite how they've been cynically employed, so I am at a loss to see how we should address the manner.

So am I. Improving education in the US might be a first step....

bjkeefe
02-28-2010, 12:40 PM
We're close enough on most of the points that I won't comment further on what you have to say, except for one quibble:

Originally Posted by bjkeefe
True to no small degree. However, I would say that I don't much accept the concept of a general will when it comes to each and every specific issue. .True enough. Most of the legislation passed by modern states is bureaucratic and administrative in nature.

Just to clarify, I was not speaking here about the mechanisms of legislation. I was trying to say that for most specific issues, there is at most a majority view, and I don't like to think of that as the "general will of the people." All too often, the minority view turns out to be the better one in the long run, and in any case, it should not be summarily dismissed.

Florian
02-28-2010, 01:58 PM
Just to clarify, I was not speaking here about the mechanisms of legislation. I was trying to say that for most specific issues, there is at most a majority view, and I don't like to think of that as the "general will of the people." All too often, the minority view turns out to be the better one in the long run, and in any case, it should not be summarily dismissed.

True. In any case, I (following Rousseau) would never equate the majority view with the "general will". It is quite possible for the majority to be mistaken about what is in its best interest.

bjkeefe
02-28-2010, 04:04 PM
True. In any case, I (following Rousseau) would never equate the majority view with the "general will". It is quite possible for the majority to be mistaken about what is in its best interest.

We've come to agreement on every point.

!!!

WHO ARE YOU AND WHAT HAVE YOU DONE WITH FRANCOAMERICAN?

popcorn_karate
02-28-2010, 10:44 PM
Again, nice in the ideal. However, even allowing for the artifacts introduced by translation and the difference in time, the above is poised right on the edge of those in power saying "We should do this even though everyone is screaming not to, because we know what's best for them, and they'll thank us in the long run." Which sounds an awful lot like the rationalizations uttered by the Bushies about their invasion of Iraq, for example.

I think that is how it is supposed to work in a republic.

I've even had to admit that I wouldn't have wanted Bush to forego the Iraq invasion if he truly believed it was necessary for our defense. That is why we elect leaders.

of course, if everyone is screaming "no," i'd hope some serious soul searching would happen in a leader going against the prevailing sentiment.

bjkeefe
02-28-2010, 10:59 PM
I think that is how it is supposed to work in a republic.

I've even had to admit that I wouldn't have wanted Bush to forego the Iraq invasion if he truly believed it was necessary for our defense. That is why we elect leaders.

of course, if everyone is screaming "no," i'd hope some serious soul searching would happen in a leader going against the prevailing sentiment.

Yep. It's a tough call. We'd all like our leaders to lead and only do the right things, but that's not going to happen. Especially given what we make people go through to get into and hold office in this country.

Ocean
03-01-2010, 09:12 PM
Brian Baird (Washington)
Bart Gordon (Tennessee)
John Tanner (Tennessee)
Rick Boucher (Virginia)
Suzanne Kosmas (Florida)
Frank Kratovil (Maryland)
Michael McMahon (New York)
Scott Murphy (New York)
Glenn Nye (Virginia)

It's time to say YES!

(?) (http://www.optimum.net/AP/ArticlePrinterFriendly?fmId=2564266)

bjkeefe
03-02-2010, 12:17 AM
Brian Baird (Washington)
Bart Gordon (Tennessee)
John Tanner (Tennessee)
Rick Boucher (Virginia)
Suzanne Kosmas (Florida)
Frank Kratovil (Maryland)
Michael McMahon (New York)
Scott Murphy (New York)
Glenn Nye (Virginia)

It's time to say YES!

(?) (http://www.optimum.net/AP/ArticlePrinterFriendly?fmId=2564266)

Not if the liberal editor of the liberal Washington Post's liberal opinion section, the liberal Fred Hiatt (http://mediamatters.org/blog/201003010005), has anything to say about it! (via (http://www.eschatonblog.com/2010/03/wanker-of-day.html))

Thanks, liberal media!