What are the odds that a large number of people who have been re-electing Ted Kennedy their entire life, will turn around and vote for his opposite? Pretty slim, don't you think? If it happens nonetheless, what does it mean?
I'm in favor of everybody, everywhere, having reliable lifelong health insurance. So may we set aside that issue?
I realize - and a number of readers made this palpable earlier this week when I blogged on an adjacent subject - that it must be extraordinarily frustrating to win a large majority in democratic elections, and still not be able to legislate your agenda.
The question remains: what does it mean? Too many people think it proves their political adversaries are fundamentally evil, or insane, or at least petrified by some irrational fear. This rather undermines the entire democratic system, where the starting point is that as a general rule a majority of the electorate will most of the time either make reasonable decisions or quickly correct its mistakes. If you don't accept that premise, in what way exactly are you a democrat? We've got such people here in Israel, small groups at both ends of the political spectrum, and I recognize the thought pattern. It's not an admirable position to be in.
Might it be the rules? Each functioning democracy has its quirks that snarl up smooth legislation, but also protect this or that minority from the majority, which is why they're there in the first place. The rules have generally been there for a long time, so they can't plausibly be "against" this particular government, or that one. Clever leaders know how to get their agendas through the system they have, at least sometimes, precisely because they know the rules and know how to operate them. This ability is ultimately one measure of politicians' true leadership.
Sometimes, however, a democratic society really can't decide. A majority of Israelis hasn't managed to get the Haredis to serve in the army or pull their weight in the economy (though there are inching improvements); a majority of Israelis would like to end most of the occupation, but that isn't working, either. In none of those cases are the minorities evil or irrational. They've got a different agenda, and they've figured out how the system can be manipulated to serve them.
It's a price a society pays for enjoying democracy.
The economist has a sobering article telling how ever more countries are abandoning democracy or whittling it down. That's far worse than not being able to enact a law, be it ever so important.