Monday, February 23, 2009

A Failure of Principles

I'll have to quarrel with the Governator's take on the current political situation here:

“You've got to listen to the people. If the nation is screaming out loud, ‘We need health care reform. We want to have universal health care. We want to have everyone insured. We want to bring the costs down. We want everyone to have access.’ I mean, that's what they want; that's what you do...Even though it maybe is against your principles or philosophy, you still have to go, because that's what the people want you to do...”

If anything, this is not how a representative republic is supposed to function. Holders of public office and those interested in public affairs should certainly take the range of public opinion into account, but they should not avoid bringing their own voices to bear in this wider public debate. They need to meet this opinion honestly, but if one believes that a majority of the public (at least as this majority is measured through polling) is mistaken on a given issue, the solution is not to roll over and surrender one's own ideas but to try to persuade more people to support different policies.

This is Governor Schwarzenegger's own position. Though the public of California ultimately voted against same-sex marriage, he has still expressed his opinion against the banning of same-sex marriage. That's his right as a citizen. Members and allies of the GOP have their own rights to advance their own arguments. It is, in many ways, a failure of civic responsibility to give up one's own ideas due to their mere seeming unpopularity.

Those in government can look at public demands in order to see what issues need to be addressed (that's one of the strengths of a democratic system), but the crafters of policy should strive to find the best and most workable solution and not lose all critical judgement in the face of polling.

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