A Positive Presidential Legacy

Although I disagree with many of President Obama’s policy positions and legislative initiatives, there is no doubt that he has had a positive impact on American democracy.  His campaign inspired many disaffected voters, and his ultimate success inspired many people to believe that they, too, could pursue a career in politics.  This article, for example, indicates that the President’s election has encouraged conservative African-Americans to run as Republicans.

When I was a kid, it was commonly said that anyone in America could grow up to be President.  In the 40-odd years since then, that concept seemed to get lost.  President Obama’s election, however, confirmed the truth of that statement and reinvigorated the important underlying concept.  I imagine that many more people now dream of perhaps being President someday.  If the President’s example gets more people participating in democracy — regardless of their political views — it will be a positive legacy.

A Test Of Representative Democracy

I haven’t posted anything about the actual passage, and now the signature into law, of the “health care reform” legislation.  We are now learning about heretofore undiscussed provisions of the massive legislation — like the provision that requires disclosures of calories on the menus of restaurants, the provisions that exempt certain congressional staffers from certain aspects of the new law, and the special projects and funding agreements that secured some votes in the House of Representatives — and I have no doubt that we will learn more along those lines in the days to come. 

In any case, the “health care reform” bill is now a law, and Americans need to decide how to deal with it.  This country is a representative democracy.  The underlying concept of that form of government is that we are too big to have national plebiscites on every issue.  Instead, individual citizens elect representatives who then cast the determinative votes on legislation. Once they are in office, we must trust our elected representatives to exercise their best judgment, based on their knowledge of the issues and the interests of their constituents, in deciding how to vote.

In our system, therefore, the Members of Congress who voted in favor of the “health care reform” legislation had every right to do so.  They are not obligated to follow the currents of popular opinion or the findings of the latest poll.  Similarly, though, voters have every right to vote against a Member of Congress on the basis of their voting record.

The question now is how Americans will react come November, and whether they will vote out those Congressmen and Senators who voted for the “health care reform” legislation.  I know that many people are infuriated at what Congress has done.  Tonight, for example, as Kish and I were walking to the library we were stopped by a neighbor who vented for a good five minutes about the bill and the process by which it was enacted.  Will that neighbor have the same passion after months have passed?  Will she contribute to campaigns and canvas for candidates who vow to work to repeal the new law?  Only time will tell — but I expect we’ll be hearing a lot more about the “health care reform” legislation in the coming months, from the media and our friends and neighbors.