Monday, March 25, 2013

What politicians say matters, drones edition

Glenn Greenwald has written previously about how President Obama has taken extreme civil liberties violations, ones that received widespread criticism by liberals under Bush's presidency, and effectively mainstreamed them. What so much of the public once claimed to abhor the public now largely embraces, and this was largely the work of the Obama Administration. There are nuances, yes, but I think Greenwald is basically right about this.

Now David Weigel points out new polling on drones. It turns out that public opinion on has soured somewhat on them, and this coincided, Weigel argues, with Rand Paul bringing negative attention to the subject. (On this one, it seems harder to know exactly what part of it Paul caused, but I do think it's at least a significant part).

The point is this: what politicians say matters. Yes, it can be overstated, and the effects vary from issues to issue. On some things, like perhaps abortion, most people are fairly entrenched, so a President or member of congress isn't going to move things that much, presumably. With many other issues, such as drones, the public has less of an entrenched position.

And so maybe this is all an argument in favor of political grandstanding (which there is already lots of, obviously, but hardly in all of the ways I would like). And when a President or member of congress says "I can't move public opinion just by what I say!" remember that sometimes they can.


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