On the other hand, to dismiss the call by supposing that pols would take calls from "campaign donors, rich people, and celebrities" and putting them all into a sort of reflected thrill frame is more than a bit disingenuous. Salam is conflating two very different things. It's certainly possible that pols might want the excitement of talking to a big shot, but that's not what's going on in a conversation with a political ally.
Nevertheless, he's correct that taking a call doesn't necessarily mean anything at all about whether Walker is likely to do, or even seriously consider, what the person on the other end of the line says. If there's one thing that politicians are trained to do it's to act as if they're listening carefully and respectfully to those they believe are blowhards and cranks. Of course, in this case it's pretty clear that Walker is solidly following the movement conservative hard-liners, for whatever reasons -- could be because of campaign funding, but it could just as easily be because he really believes in those ideas, or because he's using them to become a national politician. That he's also willing to take a call from a conservative bigshot doesn't really add anything to what we know about that. And I agree with Dave Weigel's point that liberals are becoming a little goofy on the subject of the Koch brothers (although, really, it's hardly a point against the Koch's influence to point out that all of organized labor did manage to spend considerably more than two guys).
At any rate, what interests me the most about Salam's piece is this:
This is a big part of why we right-wingers think that politicians should have very narrow, circumscribed powers. They’re not an attractive bunch.The problem with that sort of attitude is that if politicians don't have much scope to do anything, then you don't really have much of a democracy. It's all very well to say that politicians shouldn't have the ability to interfere with people's lives, but that's really just to say that the scope of democracy should be very narrow and circumscribed.
A much better answer to this is James Madison's in Federalist 51: allow democracy to be powerful, but constrain individual politicians through various constitutional devices. Make the ambitions of politicians work for democracy, instead of against it.
Of course, to say that politicians -- to say that the political system -- should have the ability to do things doesn't imply that they should do those things. And establishing some limits beyond which the ordinary political processes of democracy may not go (as in human or constitutional rights) can be justified democratically on a variety of grounds
Yes, politicians are often pathetic creatures, ambitious beyond all reason and pathetic in their search for approval from the masses. Those are good things! They make democracy work. The really dangerous pols are the ones who believe the nonsense about ignoring the polls and doing what's right, regardless of the consequences to their careers.