What do people want?

from ben heine on deviantart


For a while now we’ve heard stories like this one which indicate that some percent of Obamacare opponents wish it was *more* liberal (single payer, etc), and I’ve believed it. Heck, that’s probably the category I’d put myself in. 538 looks at the numbers around Obamacare, and concludes that the “people who dislike Obamacare because it isn’t liberal enough” group is much smaller than supposed. According to the data, the biggest group of people who say Obamacare isn’t liberal enough is…republicans. And the people who say Obamacare isn’t liberal enough don’t necessarily want it to be more liberal. WTF?


Basically, there’s a group of people in this country, large enough to show up in national polling data for years on end, who both think Obamacare isn’t liberal enough, and that it’s too liberal. This chunk of the population is large enough to put either the pro- or anti- Obamacare side in the majority, depending on how you divvy em up, and we’ve been misinterpreting them. This is just the latest seeming paradox in ACA polling- for years now (years!) Obamacare has polled worse than the Affordable Care Act (even though they are synonyms), and Obamacare is less popular than all of its individual provisions.


Fanette Guilloud

it just doesn’t make sense


I honestly don’t know what conclusions to draw from all this. It all feels a bit like Poe’s Law, which is the idea that satire is impossible to distinguish from actual extremism unless you know the authors intent. I’m not saying that anyone is being disingenuous in the way they respond to pollsters, rather that simply seeing respondents say they want Obamacare to be “more liberal” in no way actually means they want it “more liberal”. In other words, a desire for “more liberal” Obamacare might come from a person at any point on the political spectrum, and might reflect a desire for healthcare policy to move more to the left, or more to the right. Without prior knowledge, that statement can be interpreted in myriad ways.


To me, this almost feels like one of those “political discourse is dead and impossible” kinda moments. We’ve been arguing about Obamacare for years now, and we still can’t even find common ground on what basic terms mean in the discussion. That’s depressing.


Does anyone have any thoughts about this? Is political conversation dead?


What’s the conservative’s dream for the future?

So Matt Walsh‘s blog is “top post” on wordpress at the moment, and I must confess to being a little confused. As far as I can tell, his advice is basically: “Ladies, don’t be in the situation you’re in”, which is unhelpful at best. He spends a lot of time being upset that someone might have to pay for a product or a service for a third party- let’s all agree to never tell him what taxes or insurance are (i don’t think he could handle the strain).


In all honesty, his post really did make me ponder: what will a “conservative”s issues be in the 2020 elections? I’d bet solid money that a “liberal” will still identify with some sort of “equality” focussed agenda. Most people I know that identify as liberal/progressive/lefty talk about most social/political issues from a fairly simple value set; “equality” is the key idea, or perhaps it’s phrased as “equal opportunity”. Schools, Gay Marriage, Immigration, Obamacare- they’re all different facets of the same “equal access to opportunity” kind of idea. But what is someone like Matt Walsh’s underlying idea?

I hear a lot about liberty and tyranny, but I honestly can’t make the connection to policy and argument. “Don’t tread on me” is a common rallying cry, but is it the core value of a conservative? Consider the Hobby Lobby court case: it isn’t at all obvious that one side or the other is on the side of “Liberty”. Both sides are arguing that certain people should be allowed to make certain choices, even though these choices will limit other people’s behavior. Looking just at the structure of the Hobby Lobby corporation, we can see that (statistically)there should be several hundred employees of HL who want access the IUDs as part of their health plan, and there is a family that feels very very strongly that for these women to get access IUDs would be morally wrong. On the one side, we have hundreds of women being told that they aren’t allowed to buy certain health plans, on the other side we have about a dozen people being told that they can’t control their employees sex lives. I’d bet that the religious family fees more strongly per member, but that’s not the same as saying that their choices are more important than their employees. The conservative value of “liberty” doesn’t really help us make a decision in this case, because we still have to wrestle with the questions of whose liberty do we prioritize, and how?

So where is Matt Walsh coming from? Where is the conservative’s point of view in this? Is there a “conservative” set of values that is both applicable now and in the future, or is the conservative perspective just anti-progressive? Because the progressives can say they are coming from an “equality” sort of position, does this mean that the only value open to conservatives is some sort of anti-equality? I can imagine a party and a pundit/media class that continues to fight against the progressives for a long time, and it’s not hard to imagine one that is fairly successful. What I can’t wrap my head around is the values that a normal person would need to have in order to follow this hypothetical party.