Sunday, March 10, 2013

What's Going On with Your Elected Officials?

Mike Opelka reports on a situation that I've learned to consider the prime suspect when politicians disappoint their constituents:

If it's not salaries, it's funding...frequently in an insiders' version of the classic Washington Monument Ploy. "We know your electorate don't want this, but if you don't force it on them you can forget about party support for this or federal funding for that."

For nearly all politicians, there is something that can be used as leverage. And so it's possible for people who aren't supposed to have any say in the matter to say what Chris Wallace said to Paul Ryan:

When a politician you've supported disappoints you, leverage, or extortion, is not always being used. Sometimes people honestly change their own opinions. Sometimes people under pressure agree to something without thinking it through (which is, in fact, how we got the Federal Reserve--a few Congressmen were urged to vote it into existence fast while the others were out of their offices). Sometimes honest and honorable politicians change their course because they believe doing so reflects the will of the people.

In a democracy, a politician's job is not actually to impose his or her own opinions on the electorate, but to negotiate for what the majority of the electorate want. People who aren't clear on this used to denounce politicians, e.g. George H. Bush, for having a long record of having shifted their position as directed by the people. People who appreciate democracy see it as a good thing. You and I might think of a lot of issues on which legislation could be enacted in favor of our interests and opinions, but that's not the way the American system is supposed to work. If we want more people to come around to our opinions, we're supposed to have to "sell" our opinions to more voters and thus to local politicians, and so on up to the national level.

Which is what's wrong with Obamacare. This web site loathes everything about Obamacare, so far as we know, but we recognize that a lot of people think they want it. So let'em try it; that's the American way. Let one or two states go first, let the people who want mandatory tax-funded insurance go there, and let other states try better solutions to the health care problem, and then the states that have tried mandatory insurance gambling schemes can either give them up or go bankrupt, as the people choose. Instead of which, our President, our Secretary of State, and a few members of Congress attempted to impose a widely hated and almost certainly unworkable proposal on the whole country. That's fascism; that's what we call un-American.

Lots of politicians are coming up for reelection in November. Lots of people are currently saying they want to use their votes to punish their elected officials. That's an option, but this web site recommends considering it with caution. Untested candidates who may say, and honestly think, they'll accomplish something we want may find themselves even less able to resist leverage than the politicians they've replaced. Splitting the conservative vote tends to be the way the Loony Left win elections, when they do, in conservative states.

This web site would actually prefer a different strategy to having a lot of different self-styled conservatives campaigning against each other. We could, in theory, use modern technology to exert counter-leverage. We could, in calm, courteous, parliamentary ways, ask those who've disappointed us what they were thinking, tell them what kind of damage they've done, and ask them how they plan to solve the new problems to which they have contributed.

I'm aware that most readers aren't related to their elected officials, even distantly, and that some people who live under the same roof with some elected officials have learned that it's no use trying to explain anything to these individuals. These factors may make the kind of online democracy I'd like to see about as improbable as the idea of banks voluntarily offering buyers lower monthly payments, without penalties, so that people can keep their houses. (I am an old lady who's spent most of my life working with friends and relatives rather than enemies; I reserve the right to be naive, idealistic, and young at heart, whenever and to whatever extent I can.) But we could try playing the game by the rule book, just to find out what would happen.