Saturday, June 26

A Civil Discussion: Why Is It Not Okay to Stray from the Party Line?

I appreciate those people who put in time and effort to help candidates to be elected for their parties. It is a noble calling. However, it is painful when their partisanship does not allow them to call on their elected leaders to do the right thing when they compromise away things that hurt their constituents. The argument I hear from my much more committed to winning one for the party friends is we win if we are moving things "in the right direction." I would put the emphasis on "right" over direction, as many of the compromises are there to appease right of center groups. My recent post about the DISCLOSE act showcases an example of such appeasement.

However, how can we trust in a politics that promises change, but delivers gradualism or plain sells out a group of people for the opportunity to declare victory for our side now? Whether it is funding the war, tackling global climate change, economic policy, or health care, it shouldn't surprise anyone that through whittling away at legislation, average people are asking "So how does this help me?"

This is the very type of politics that Paul Wellstone and others fought (and some continue to fight) against. Wellstone said, while debating against a bill, “I believe that we will deeply regret this stampede to pass this legislation and the way in which we have taken all the human rights, religious freedom, right to organize, all of those concerns and we just put them in parenthesis, put them in brackets, as if they don't exist.” By treating those special interests and the people who are the public face for them as having more "personage" than someone affected by results of that legislation, we should not be surprised that it leads to a radicalization of politics both further right and left.

Should we feel empathy for those who choose to support their parties, of course. They are genuinely trying to do things to the best of their abilities to shape policy around what they believe is best. But should we not also point out when they are being sycophants and not using their critical thinking ability?

I understand that no political party or politician is without flaws. Voting more and more becomes an exercise in who will do less to make you angry that you voted for them than a feeling of genuine belief that they are representing your interests. However, if we really believe that the Constitution has any relevancy in our lives, we need to remember that our representative democracy is dependent on an informed electorate, not just those who excel at cheer leading.

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