Friday, October 29, 2010

What's a Public Servant To Do?

You know, there are some very foundational questions about this two-century experiment in "rule by the people" we've been running here in America which really need to be discussed at large and answered.

One in particular has been troubling me lately: what should be the relationship between a representative and the people who elect him/her? Should we expect them to listen to us, their constituency, on a regular basis and act according to our immediate wishes, even if they personally feel differently about the matter? Or do we just elect people whom we trust, and generally agree with, and let them govern as their wisdom directs them?

President Obama is a case in point. When he was a candidate, he was pretty clear about the direction he wanted to take the country -- and the people voted him in. I think this man really believes what he is doing is the best thing for the country. I don't see him doing a Bill-Clinton and becoming more moderate after next week's election. He stands on what he thinks is right. And in some ways, I have to really respect him for that. That's kind of refreshing to see when the vast majority of politicians sway like a willow in the wind according to the breeze blowing from the latest poll.

On the other hand, I think it's pretty clear now that the majority of Americans DON'T think what he's doing is the best thing for the country. They have lost confidence in him and his agenda. If he was up for re-election next week, I don't think he'd have much of a chance.

So, what is he to do? Again, I think what he will do is stand his ground, keep doing what he's doing as much as he can. To use his own metaphor, he's got the wheel and he knows the way to get there, thank you very much. He strikes me as having an attitude like a parent to a wayward child. You may not understand, but I know what is best for you. You may not see why things have to be this way now, but in the end, when it all works out, you'll be grateful for what I've done for you. I'm willing to suffer your hatred and indignation today, because your welfare is more important than my popularity.

Sounds noble. Unfortunately, I don't think the American people like being treated like a wayward child, even if they possibly deserve it. Frankly, we do seem sometimes to be a nation of self-centered brats with no long-term memory and a childish need for immediate gratification. But I would like to see our leaders nurture some maturity in us rather than take advantage of our immaturity. I think I'd like to see Obama make a more genuine effort at convincing the country of the rightness of his vision -- like I said in my earlier blog, let the truth stand on its own, if he believes it's the truth. No manipulation. No sneakiness. No patronizing.

That's what I'd like to see all government leaders do. Treat us like adults, so we have the opportunity to rise to those expectations. But the questions still stands: if they are unable to convince us to agree with them, what do they do? Follow the polls or follow their conscience? Hmmm. I honestly don't know.

1 comment:

Ona Marae said...

I can say this is possible for the majority to be wrong. It was this way with Jim Crow laws for example. There is a reason we have a three legged stool for a government with checks and balances on the majority rule idea. So just following the polls...that sounds like it might be a little more dangerous than it sounds at first...immediate gratification of the majority is not why I elect my representatives. And I go to a great deal of work to learn about the candidates and who will represent us best in Colorado and in Washington. Thanks for bringing this up. I voted today and was thinking about it!