Dick Meyer, of CBSNews.com, has a pretty spot on column about a disturbing tendency among some politicians. This tendency is to believe that they know what is best for the voters, even better than the voters themselves. Meyer thinks that this attitude will prove damaging to the Democrats, even if they are able to make gains in this year’s elections.
He correctly points out that both parties have their know-it-all tendencies. However, he thinks that Democrats are a bit more likely to entertain such attitudes. That makes sense when you think about how Democrats and Republicans differ in their attitudes towards government and the free market.
But I think that the Democrats are even more likely to fall into that trap today than they have been at other times. This is because they don’t control the White House or either half of Congress. Their exile from power is the result of voters rejecting their message. Rather than assuming that there might be something wrong with their message, they seem to prefer to assume that something is wrong with the voters. It’s the whole “What’s the Matter with Kansas” mindset. Meyers captures the problem in the article’s pull quote:
A defining impulse or attitude of many Democrats and liberals today is that Americans – because of evil manipulations by Republicans – do not know what is best for them, and the party’s job is to show them the light.
The problem they face is that there really isn’t a good way to tell someone, “You’d vote for me if you would just wise up”. Most voters don’t like being treated like children. That isn’t an effective message. And that’s why the Democrats have to rely so much on Bush’s problems to boost themselves.
(via Real Clear Politics)