Andrew Sabl channels an ordinary voter

Scoring debating points wasn’t the point last night. Kerry got that, though I missed it.

My colleague Andrew Sabl quotes Matt Yglesias:

“I’ve got to admit that I find domestic policy a bit dull compared to national-security issues, and the debate seems to have been free of any major gaffes that would seize one’s attention. That said, it’s easy for me to feel bored by these domestic-policy debates since I’ve got a job and I’ve got some decent health insurance.”

Andy adds:

The fact that Kerry clearly cares about the unemployed and said something about jobs besides “your kids will be luckier than you” must have struck home in Ohio. Bush clearly cares more about business tax rates than about whether people get pink slips, and that came through.

Ordinary people don’t follow debaters’ points closely and don’t miss the missed opportunities. Intellectuals can get very misleading impressions by judging by our own lights.

Take, for example, your reaction to the flu vaccine question. Yes, Kerry bungled it–but then again, people probably care less about flu vaccines than about the possibility of losing their insurance altogether. Kerry whiffed the actual question to make sure he had time to talk about the bigger issue. Infuriating to me at the time, as to you–but almost certainly the right decision.

Also remember that most people, rationally ignorant, didn’t know that Kerry had serious domestic policy proposals until now. This may sound like a laugh given Dubya’s non-record, but there it is: “I’m ignorant” translates in ordinary heads to “he hasn’t made it clear.”

Seems right to me.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com