The "Constituent Person"
Yesterday, before Tim Geithner testified to the Senate Appropriations' financial services subcommittee, Ben Nelson (D) offered some introductory remarks channeling, we can only presume, the ordinary Nebraskans he works so assiduously to represent:
When I go home, I have people come to me complaining about the bailouts, complaining about TARP, complaining about putting the auto industry into bankruptcy. And they're all concerned about that. They're concerned also about the growing deficit and the increasing budget.
One thing that they're now becoming alarmed about is government ownership of stock.
I, obviously, have little knowledge of what questions Sen. Nelson's constituents ask in the privacy of their own state. Maybe -- amid health-care reform and 9-plus percent unemployment and the near-collapse of Detroit -- they're obsessed with the equity that the taxpayer is being offered in return for bailing out failing companies. But I'd be surprised.
Rather, this sounds like a conversation tic unique to politicians. Some congressmen talk in the first person. "I am concerned about this legislation." Some talk in the third person. "Bob Dole is concerned about this legislation." And some talk in the constituent person. "My constituents are concerned about this legislation." (Or the constituent-thrid person: "Bob Dole's constituents are concerned about this legislation.")
It's a neat trick but a bit low. There are things that voters are concerned about and things that elites are concerned about and things that individual politicians are concerned about. Sometimes, these are the same things. But sometimes, the constituent voice is used to make it seem like these are the same things. It's a lot like what journalists do when they drop "some say" into conversations.
(Photo credit: Bill O'leary -- The Washington Post Photo )