Democracy, Yecch: Does NPR Really Want to Slam the 'Tyranny of Constituency'?

June 25th, 2010 7:51 AM

Glenn Reynolds at Instapundit mocked the curious turn of phrase National Public Radio Senior Washington Editor Ron Elving used on his Watching Washington blog to defend a recent NPR survey showing dire straits for the Democrats in the fall.

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...

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.

The NPR survey also included ten marginal GOP districts that Obama won in 2008. What they found in these 70 districts was that respondents favored Republicans over Democrats, 49 to 41, and President Obama drew 40 percent approval and 54 percent disapproval. No wonder NPR-loving liberals were unhappy.

Elving's "tyranny" phrase was a reflection on Joe Barton's apology to BP:  

The NPR poll shows why individual House members wind up being more loyal to their own jigsaw piece of the national puzzle than to the national puzzle itself. Only their own micro-constituency can vote for them (or against them). And at the same time, the pressure on an individual member from a dominant industry or other interest within the district can be irresistible. That's why Barton, the Texas Republican, thinks not only about suburban Dallas-Fort Worth voters but also about the oil and gas industry, which made him the No. 1 recipient of its campaign fund contributions in the House. 

His wider message sounded more Gergenesque: that the "tyranny" of constituency prevents compromise, just as partisan gerrymandering has made elections less competitive and more ideologically polarized. 

But the "tyranny" that most offends conservatives is that NPR can take our tax dollars and please their "constituency" of congressional liberals with an aggressive anti-conservative bias (right down to the website's cartoons).