Epstein: "One Nation, Under Compromise?"

One Nation, Under Compromise?

My last Defining Ideas column on the Libertarian’s Dilemma started with the simple but critical observation that voting for any candidate is like buying a bundle of goods. To get the goods (or policy issues) you want, you have to accept the goods you don’t. So, the winning candidate may receive at most minority support for many of the most controversial items in their bundle of policies. We know that Obama won the 2012 election  because voters, by a margin of 81 to 18, think that he “cares for people like me.” But that warm and fuzzy feeling will soon give way to the issue-by-issue trench warfare on which the president is likely to prove far more vulnerable.

Of Labor and Business

The power of this simple proposition is made apparent whenever particular issues are put on the ballot as separate initiatives, subject to an up or down vote. Two weeks ago, I wrote about the misguided Proposal 2 in Michigan, which sought to entrench—by constitutional amendment—collective bargaining in the state to the extent that it was not inconsistent with federal law. That initiative was beaten by a 58-42 margin in a state that President Obama carried comfortably and which also reelected the pro-labor Democratic Senator Debbie Stabenow.

Why the discrepancy? Because in voting for a president or senator, labor relations are only one issue among many. For most voters, the presidential election was dominated by a variety of social issues. But Proposal 2 came unbundled from those issues when it was put to an up or down vote. Once it became clear that it would upend many established Michigan laws and practices, the public quickly switched sides.

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