Saturday, October 31, 2009

Politicians, Voters, and Sticking to Principle

Voters often tell their elected officials that they want them to "just get things done."  Voters want these politicians to solve the problems facing the country and fix the problems in government.  Also, voters want their elected officials to be principled.  Politicians should not compromise their beliefs.  Tension lies in these two desires.  We want our politicians to work together without compromising, to stand on principle while passing legislation.  In the US, legislation does not get passed without compromise.  This is by design.  Our Founders intentionally designed a system where action (especially in the legislative branch) requires a large consensus.  So, we have a situation in the US where politicians are often found having to explain to their voters why they seek a compromise with members of the other party.  Here are two examples:

During the 2008 Democratic Presidential primary season, candidates often faced questions from angry Democrats who didn't understand why we still had troops in Iraq, or did not have health care reform, even though the Democrats controlled Congress.  Joe Biden was the most outspoken in trying to educate voters on this matter.  He had to explained that you still needed Republican support to pass legislation.  Here is a clip from one of the debates:

More recently, Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-SC) co-wrote an editorial with Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) in the New York Times about a bi-partisan compromise on energy policy.  The bill would increase offshore drilling and nuclear power to decrease our dependence on foreign oil (something Republicans want), and it would decrease carbon emissions through a cap and trade system (something Democrats want).  At a town hall meeting after the editorial, Graham was confronted by angry voters who wanted to know "why do you think it is necessary to get in bed with John Kerry?"  These voters wanted Graham to stand on principle and not go along with any compromise bill, but Graham recognized that this would mean not doing anything.  In his reply, he states, "what I’ve tried to do is find a way to move the ball forward as our nation is beginning to lag. And unless you make all the Democrats go away, somebody’s got to fix this country’s problems in a bipartisan manner.”  Here is the full clip:

Neither Biden or Graham are compromising their principles.  In fact, they are using compromise to advance their principles.  They realize that it is better to gain something than nothing.  So, do you want politicians that will be uncompromising and and not vote for any bill that includes something they don't like, or do you want politicians to work together to solve our nations problems and "get things done"?  Because, you can't have both.

Related Posts:

Change and Bipartisanship

1 comment:

MrsM said...

See, I think it's better for the government to do nothing than it is for the government to go around passing a bunch of foul stuff while attempting to help this cause or that cause. In fact, I'd rather the government stop "helping" altogether. That's just me though-I'm minarchist/libertarian.