Friday, July 28, 2006

Method To The Pork Madness?

For all the talk about how unpopular Republicans supposedly are right now, it doesn't look as if the Democrats are in any better PR shape according to this Wall Street Journal poll:

The Journal/NBC poll shows that Democrats have made little progress in improving their party's standing. The party's favorability rating, 32% positive and 39% negative, is as unflattering as the Journal/NBC survey has ever recorded.
Of course, generic party polls are meaningless, just like generic congressional ballots. I seriously doubt whether either party would poll all that well even in the best of times - which these times actually are, the shadow of nuclear war in the Middle East notwithstanding. It's the actual individual candidates who will determine the overall parties' success this fall.

And, intriguingly, the WSJ poll shed some context-providing light on what criteria may govern voters' decision processes:

The 14% of voters who remain undecided in congressional races are especially interested in local issues. By 41% to 25%, those undecided voters say performance in the district will be most important to their vote.

"Performance in the district," translated, means "How much bacon did Congressman Bunghole bring home?" In a year in which nationalizing congressional elections seems exceedingly unlikely (apart, perhaps, from the usual national security mismatch), the runaway "earmarking" that so many of us on the center-right have decried (sometimes "angrily") starts making a lot more sense from a purely pragmatic point of view.

That's not a defense of pork, by any means. I want to see runaway federal spending brought under control as much as anybody (though I'm much more interested in averting the looming fiscal crunch of federal entitlement programs like Medicare and Social Security, compared to which earmarks, no matter how promiscuous, are a drop in the bucket). It's also not a cavalier eschewment of philosophical commitment. But darned if I'm not still a realist at heart. And as the adage goes, you can't do anything about anything if you're not in power.

Sometimes medicine tastes nasty. But if it's the only way to get well, who can seriously argue that it isn't worth it?

(h/t: RCP)

UPDATE: If the Republicans do not remain in power, will there be any chance for anti-pork remedies like this and this? Could that not make the current flurry of earmarks analogous to innoculation?