02 October 2008

Bush: "The House ... must listen"

The President was meeting with business leaders this afternoon when he delivered himself of this advice to Congress regarding the latest bailout bill:

This is an issue that is affecting hardworking people. They are worried about their savings; they're worried about their jobs; they're worried about their houses; they're worried about their small businesses. The House of Representatives must listen to these voices and get this bill passed so we can go about the business of restoring confidence.

This is probably as eloquent as Bush gets, but I can't help asking which voices he's talking about. Everything I've heard or read suggests that the majority of people contacting their representatives are opposed to the bailout. We ought to presume that those people are also worried about jobs, houses, and businesses. They can't all be unemployed renters. But it's self-evident that many people who are worried about their jobs, or their houses, or their businesses of whatever size, oppose the bailout. There probably are many others who fit those descriptions who support the bailout, but again, the majority seems to oppose it. This brings us to the dilemma of representative democracy. The representative, in the House especially, is torn between the will of his or her constituents and his own analysis of conditions. Few today believe that constituents can actually instruct their representatives to vote one way or another. Even if they could, how does the representative know that the petitioners or callers represent the majority of his constituency? Should he presume a silent majority that disagrees with the petitioners or else will acquiesce in whatever he decides? There will be a judgment a month from now, but will that come too late for the country?

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