I’ve got friends who occupy just about every niche along the political spectrum. For once, almost everyone seems to be united in one thought: we all agree that the recent “fiscal cliff” scenario, and the hash house legislation that “resolved” it, are an infuriating embarrassment for our country. Everyone seems to recognize that the hastily brokered bill, with its special deals for well-heeled special interests, just illustrates how bad things have gotten in Washington, D.C.
Why has this happened? There are a lot of reasons, of course, but I think one significant cause is that we’ve changed how we think about our political leaders and what they should be doing. What attributes are featured in political ads these days? Democrat or Republican, the candidate is always portrayed as a “fighter” who will “fight” for his constituents in opposing unnamed forces of evil. Important qualities like thoughtfulness, cool deliberation, and attention to detail are ignored. When was the last time you saw a candidate in a political ad sitting and reading something? Instead, they’re always out, talking, talking, talking to groups, and vigorously gesturing as they are doing so.
We need legislators who understand the true importance of their role and who have pride in their legislative bodies and in their offices. We need people who recognize that laws that will govern the affairs of more than 300 million Americans have to be carefully considered and can’t be cobbled together in a back room huddle of Joe Biden and a few congressional leaders.
In reality, too, most of the “fighters” who currently hold office really are sheep. They listen to how their party leadership tells them to vote, and then they do it, even if it means they don’t even read whatever last-minute, lobbied-up deal they are voting on. Can you imagine the Lincolns and Clays and Websters of the past — or any legislator with an ounce of self-respect, for that matter — accepting these legislative practices, which have now become so routine? A real fighter for our system would refuse to participate in such shenanigans.
I’m not going to vote for phony “fighters” any more. In fact, I’ll make this pledge: candidates whose commercials extoll their qualities as “fighters” will be automatically disqualified from further consideration. Our country badly needs reasoned solutions, not more pointless name-calling and legislative brawls undertaken in the name of “fighting” for constituents. We need readers and thinkers, not “fighters.” “Fighters” look for fights; readers and thinkers look for solutions — and solutions is what we really need.