One of the troubles with Democracy (and the reason that the United States is not one, is that true Democracy often turns into a tyranny, of sorts. Democracy is mob rule, and while I wouldn't deign to question the collective wisdom of mobs, it tends to be unworkable in the long run. Maybe this is just my low opinion of human nature coloring my words. But the Truth is that the United States is a Republic with a tinge of Bureaucracy, not a Democracy. In a Democracy, we would be voting on laws, not electing members of Congress who would be doing it for us. We would be voting for the head of the FCC, the head of the FDA, the head of the FBI. We would be voting on whether to allow Vioxx to be sold, and whom to. We would be voting on whether Janet Jackson's breast violated decency standards. In other words, in a nation of almost 300 million citizens, we would be voting all day, every day. But since we're a Bureaucratic Republic, we allow our elected and unelected representatives to do the work for us. There's a level of trust there, whether or not we like it.
Still, a Republic is very much like a Democracy, if only on a superficial level. We still come together to vote, except we choose the people who will make decisions, and we choose them every few years, so nobody rules absolutely. We have checks and balances and we've made government as inefficient as possible so that nothing gets done unless it's really important. We've limited our Democratic rights to those involving choosing our representatives. So it's very important that we retain those rights.
That's why a recent news story is puzzling to me. On Monday, a new poll was released showing that President Bush was enjoying his lowest approval rating ever at 37%. By historical standards, it's bad but not fatal. Clinton's low was 37% in 1993 and Reagan's low was 35% in 1983. Of course, that assumes that Bush's popularity has bottomed out. If it went lower, he could be in real trouble, keeping company with his father (low of 29% in 1992), Jimmy Carter (28% in 1979), and Richard Nixon (24% in 1974). Be that as it may, Bush is still the President (as so many "W" stickers like to point out) and we do live in a Republic, so he's got three more years to govern. But it's mystifying to me why "The White House has said it doesn't pay attention to poll numbers and the figures do not affect policy." Why shouldn't poll numbers affect policy? The American people elected him, don't they deserve to at least have their opinion respected? When Clinton had his lowest rating in 1993, it was due in large part to his attempts to nationalize health insurance. He quickly dropped the effort when it became clear that the American citizenry did not want it. What exactly is so bad about respecting the American people now?
I'm not suggesting that Bush waver between policy when his approval teeters from 52% to 51%. That would be poor judgment and weak leadership. But when his approval dropped 20 points from 57% in February to 37% today, that's getting the sense that 300 million people (or at least 189 million people) are unhappy. If Democracy means anything, why is it a point of pride for him to ignore the people?