The “tyranny of constituency”?
posted at 12:55 pm on June 25, 2010 by Ed Morrissey
When the founders created Congress, they had two separate constituencies in mind. For the House, they wanted Representatives who would be accountable to the people, while for the Senate they wanted members accountable to the state legislatures that were the natural check on federal power. (Later, the 17th Amendment made Senators accountable to the general public instead.) They formed this body in answer to the tyranny of distant nobility and politicians with no accountability whatsoever to those whom they would rule. A representative government, they concluded, would be the antidote of tyranny.
Apparently, NPR didn’t get the message. In a late analysis to their poll ten days ago on Congressional races, which shows Democrats in deep trouble for the midterm elections, NPR called the coming exercise in accountability a demonstration of “the tyranny of constituency” (via Instapundit):
A poll NPR reported earlier this week offered the most telling metrics we’ve seen yet for measuring the mountain that congressional Democrats face this fall. It got a lot of attention for all the obvious reasons. But there’s a good deal more to be gleaned from the numbers than the headline about a likely boost for Republicans. …
Beneath the surface, the NPR poll was all about the tyranny of constituency, the down and dirty of serving the folks back home. House districts (and states’ legislative districts) tend to be intricately drawn demarcations of the folks back home. From a complicated map of a state or a metro area, computer-enabled experts carve out jigsaw puzzle pieces that aggregate like-minded voters (and exclude those with different views).
The dynamics of these cyber-modeled districts are the driving force of the House as we know it. As someone once said, where you stand depends on where you sit. And these days you can learn more about where a member of Congress sits than ever before.
That’s why the NPR survey, done by Democratic pollster Stan Greenberg and Republican counterpart Glen Bolger, focused on the 60 Democratic districts likeliest to be lost to Republicans this fall. These are districts where incumbents are retiring, or where incumbents were most recently elected by narrow margins. In most, the 2008 voting that sent a Democrat to Congress also produced more votes for Republican presidential nominee John McCain than for Barack Obama.
Certainly a case can be made against gerrymandering. It allows state legislatures the ability to carve out “safe” districts that reduce accountability, except in rare primary challenges to sitting incumbents of the favored party. That process has become a little less rare in this cycle, however, which NPR fails to point out.
But even gerrymandered districts produce elected representatives who tend to accurately represent the majority of the constituents; that’s actually the point of gerrymandering. And as this cycle shows, voters can still hold them accountable, and not just in Democratic districts in a bad year for Democrats. Ask Bob Inglis what he’ll be doing next January, for instance. After shooting off his mouth about fearmongering and Fox News in a townhall meeting last August, Inglis lost the nomination for the seat he currently occupies in the House. Bob Bennett won’t be returning for a fourth term as Utah’s Senator, either.
In any case, accountability is not tyranny; it’s the exact opposite of tyranny. It’s shocking, but somehow not surprising, that NPR fails to understand that when Democrats are the party being held accountable for their performance and their radical agenda.