The resulting mess is not because legislators are insular, but because they are in fact reflecting the incoherent wishes of their constituents. In such an environment, experts aren’t much help — not because these specialists and professionals don’t know what they’re doing, but because the public only wants to hear answers from them with which they already agree. Forget about nuance or competence: As scholar Philip Tetlock once noted, there’s not much point in checking the track record of competing experts when the public approaches expert advice with “the psychology of the sports arena, not the seminar room.
Experts can only assist policymaking when the voters know what they want, and when the public and their elected representatives are willing to listen to the various possibilities about how to get the results they desire. When Americans think instead, as so many do now, of public policy only in terms of scoring wins or losses, legislative dumpster fires like the last two ACA repeal efforts are inevitable
Ironically, these failures in the Senate will lead at least some Americans to say that Washington “isn’t listening” to the electorate. The problem, in reality, is that Washington is listening far too much to a vocal minority who have no idea what they’re talking about and do not want to learn more than the little they know. Republicans were not bereft of expert advice in this or any other legislative fight. But there’s not much use for that advice when voters have already told them that facts are less important than unfocused rage and a thirst for promises of political revenge.