Friday, October 21, 2016

The Third Rail

One of the great mysteries of the last 15 years or so is how stupid Democrats became about the popularity of certain issues. I don't think The Atrios Agenda always has majority support. I actually pay pretty close attention to opinion polls and have a good sense of when, on a surface level at least (polls don't always fully capture nuances), the plans I will implement as your benevolent dictator will be popular. But once upon a time we all knew that cutting Social Security was "the third rail" and that generally "free stuff for the elderly" (I know it isn't really free, just check your tax return), was really popular. Hell even George Bush rammed through a flawed but still popular with the elderly drug benefit add on to Medicare. Because, you know, there are a lot of them and they vote.

I never quite understand why on an issue as obviously popular as Social Security, "making Fred Hiatt happy" was more important than "getting lots of people to vote for you," but that was where we were. Even Republicans understood that what they wanted to do would be hideously unpopular and it was weirdly Democrats who were pushing it more, at least for a time. Yes, yes, if Republicans were your malevolent dictators they'd gut Social Security, but since they still have to win elections even they aren't completely stupid.

Hopefully that era is over. For a little while at least. Could even win some elections that way!