“The American people.”

A pet peeve of mine: Politicians who insist on talking about what “the American people” want, and what “the American people” think. Every politician who says that believes that—in a striking coincidence—what the American people want happens to be precisely what said politician wants.

Never noticed this? You will now. You can hear an example of this in All Things Considered’s interview with Rep. Tom Price (R-GA) this evening, in which he says:

The American people know that tax increases don’t create a single job. […] The American people are not interested in having the tax [sic] increased, the American people understand that Washington spends way too much money, and we need to get our fiscal house in order…

(Also alarming in this story is Price’s response to a question from host Melissa Block as to whether the failure to raise the debt ceiling would be an economic calamity, to which he responds: “I don’t know—we’ve never been in this situation.”)

A good politician will take about what he thinks and what he thinks is right for the country. A suck-up politician leans on his claims about what “the American people” think—meaning that either he’s governing by poll results or he’s pretending to govern by poll results. You can decide which is worse.

Published by Waldo Jaquith

Waldo Jaquith (JAKE-with) is an open government technologist who lives near Char­lottes­­ville, VA, USA. more »

2 replies on ““The American people.””

  1. Instead of speaking about what “the American people” want, I speak about what “decent people”, “intelligent people” or even “hard-working Americans” want/believe. It’s got a little more punch.

    Implying slightly that people who disagree with you are somehow unamerican is a nice rhetorical trick, but to be divisive, one should really up the ante a little bit and imply that all those who disagree are indecent or unintelligent or not hard-working.

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