[T]he striking thing about American politics today is the extent to which politicians in congress don't reach agreements even when the American people aren't sharply divided.The example he gives is about taxes; he correctly points out that the polling on taxes has the majority of Republicans actually support a deficit-reducing deal that relies on cutting spending and raising taxes.
In fact, it's sort of remarkable that thirty-five years after Ronald Reagan shifted on taxes, and over twenty years after the Gingrich revolt against George H.W. Bush solidified anti-tax extremism as the rarely contested orthodoxy of all national Republican politicians, the GOP rank-and-file is still incredibly resistant to the message.
That said, as Yglesias says, we shouldn't make too much of this kind of abstract issue polling. In fact, I'm not sure about this (his emphasis):
If key Republican leaders—John Boehner, Mitch McConnell, Paul Ryan, etc.—wanted to shake hands on a bargain that raised taxes a fair amount and cut spending by three or four times that amount, Obama would gladly take the deal and a strong cross-party majority of Americans would applaud.Yes and no; depends on the "etc.", doesn't it? Let's say that those leaders agreed to it, but Rush Limbaugh opposed it and called it a sell-out...and so did Rand Paul and Ted Cruz, and so did a fair number of House Republicans. What, then, would the polling among Republicans show? I wouldn't want to predict that in advance. And I'm not at all confident that the pre-specifics polling about general attitudes about taxation would have any predictive power at all to the post-specifics, post-elite lineup, results. On the other hand, if President Cruz, Speaker Ryan, and Majority Leader Paul agree to the exact same deal and get it endorsed by Rush and the rest, then the rank-and-file are going to support it (for the moment at least!) almost unanimously.
All of which is to totally agree with the main point* he's making, which is that that policy-preference constraints by voters is at best a very minimal cause of Congressional polarization.
And: Nice catch!
*On the other hand, I don't think I can go along with Yglesias's (separate) complaint about the use of Jedi Council. On two counts. One is that there's nothing at all wrong with using references from inferior movies/shows/books whatever, including inferior sequels (or prequels, whatever). As anyone who has used Pacino's "just when I thought I was out..." quote will have to admit. And the second thing is that I think it's the case that the Jedi maintained peace in the galaxy for a thousand years before the events of the prequels. That's not bad! And if so, I think it's wrong for us to think of them as a bunch of easily-duped fools; it's just that we only saw that part of it. I say I think so, however, because I tried to look it up and realized that figuring it out would require a short course in Star Wars galactic history based on books, games, and more, and I really don't want to start down that particular path.