Why Voters Hate Washington Incumbents

Americans like the idea of providing healthcare and cutting spending when it doesn't come out of their pockets.

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Jonah Goldberg and Will Cain have a nice dialogue up on the National Review Online, diagnosing the causes of the damage that congressional Democrats are going to sustain in November.

Cain asks how middle-of-the-road independents—anyone, actually—could have been surprised that the Obama administration and its allies in Congress delivered on things like healthcare reform. This is what they promised to do, after all.

There are two answers.

First is that middle-of-the-road independents are, politically speaking, idiots. They may be smart. They may be good at their jobs. They may have nice families. But they don’t know squat about government or civics.

The second answer, as Jonah explains, is this: “People realize that they like the idea of giving people healthcare when it doesn’t hurt them. But when it actually comes out of their pocket, and they realize how costly and bureaucratic it is ... they don’t want it.”

This is exactly right. The only problem is, its essential truth applies equally to conservative priorities, like reining in spending.

In another context, Jonah could easily have said—and probably, at some point, actually did say—“People like the idea of cutting spending when it doesn’t hurt them. But when they realize it actually comes out of their pocket, they don’t want to.”

Until both parties realize this and come up with some bargain that will minimize the political damage that surely awaits any attempt at serious entitlement reform, we are, not to put too fine a point on it, screwed.

  • Check out our editorial cartoons on the economy.
  • Follow the money in Congress.
  • See photos of healthcare reform protests.