I can’t imagine much would be lost if Senators felt free to choose their primary residence without worrying about whether they’d be accused of “going Washington,” or if Barack Obama could pick his vacation spot without worrying about its effect on public opinion polls. The problem is that I’m not sure you can separate this particular baby from this particular bathwater. A Member of the House who realizes that she can skip a few fundraisers because incumbent spending in elections is subject to severe diminishing returns might also realize that she can skip a bunch of committee meetings, because no one in the district really cares (especially since the local paper long since has closed its Washington bureau). A Senator who realizes that it doesn’t matter much whether or not he gets time on the evening news back home might also realize that he can in most cases ignore the preferences of his district on issues of public policy. A president who understands that his ability to move public opinion is extremely limited might just not bother holding press conferences or otherwise giving any access to the press.Jon's whole post is quite good. And there are certainly some reasons that we really wouldn't want politicians to take political science to heart. (For example, what if the minority party read some poli sci and realized that the ticket to them becoming the majority is a faltering economy, so they used all their powers, notably the filibuster, to thwart the majority's efforts to stimulate the economy. Whew, good thing that doesn't happen in real life!)
But I take issue with Jon's contention that we can't separate the good kind of ephemera from the bad. To go off one of his examples, I really doubt that most members of Congress attend committee meetings because they're concerned that voters are watching the hearings on C-SPAN and taking roll. They attend because they know it's part of the job, because they're socialized into it, because they'll catch grief from their colleagues if they don't attend, because their party might get rolled on an important vote if they don't show up, and because their colleagues might not be there for them the next time around if they aren't there for their colleagues. I also doubt that exposing politicians to political science would cause them to shirk their districts. After all, there are a number of solid studies (like this one) showing that members of Congress who don't vote their districts have a harder time getting reelected, even if no one individual roll call vote particularly matters. Members would still know this, and if they didn't, they'd eventually be replaced by people who did.
I recognize we're in the realm of political science fantasy here, but I believe that elected officials would still have plenty of motivation to actually represent their constituents and do their jobs even if they didn't go on audience-less Sunday talk shows or poll-test their vacation destinations. I'm not sure how we get to that point, but I think Ezra's column is a start.