American politics has two distinct components: Ideology and Pragmatism. All politicians come to their offices with a mixture of both elements. All have a personal vision that represents their core values and beliefs. And, if wise, they realize that they must be practical and listen to the directives of the voters that put them into office.
The founding fathers of this great country had the wisdom to know, more than 200 years ago, that governing required a balance between the visions of the elected and the will of the people who elected them. Successful politicians learn to strike the proper balance between their personal views and the mandate they are given by the voters. Whenever politicians fail to strike an appropriate balance, they are voted out and replaced with another that promises to be a better listener.
There is no better example of the need for balance than the 2010 mid-term elections. The Democrats took control of the Congress and White House in 2008 with a clear mandate from the electorate. They massaged that mandate with the progressive ideology of the leadership and determined that they would try to move the country from being governed in the center to being governed from the left. The real litmus test was the overhaul of America’s healthcare system. The administration, mistakenly, ignored the polls and sentiments of the public-at-large and rammed a monstrosity down the throats of the public. The process of passing their landmark legislation was ugly! A lack of transparency, back-room deals, and bullying were the hallmarks and legacy of passage. The senators and representatives voted on a 2,500 page bill without understanding (or not caring) what was in the bill. The last straw was the administration’s badgering of Congressman Bart Stupak into changing his position of the bill so it would pass by a narrow margin. Stupak’s reward for allowing himself to be bullied was the end of his political career. Stupak will be forever linked to this piece of legislation. In this case, Stupak moved from his ideology (and that of his constituents) and lost his seat.
Ideology, however, is what drove the Democrats to abuse their positions to pass the bill…..eventhough, pragmatically, the leaders (Pelosi & Reid) knew that passage would be a bitter pill for the public to swallow. Healthcare was the perfect storm of ideology vs. pragmatism. Pragmatism lost….and so have those that supported the bill. Partisanship and ideology had ruled the day as the battle raged. The Democratic leadership thought the American public was too stupid to understand what great things THEY were doing for the electorate!
As we enter a new phase of American politics, the question is clear: Will the Obama administration cling to its ideological, progressive high road? Or will they be swayed by the pragmatic message that has been sent in the mid-term elections? If the Democrats do not trend towards a more bi-partisan position, the 2012 election will usher a new president into the White House; and control of both houses will rest with the Republicans.
The authors of the Constitution were, indeed, wise people. They intended the federal government to have limited powers; and for the states to have local governance. The past three administrations have abused their powers by allowing government to grow, almost uncontrolled. Whether they were too pragmatic or too ideological can be debated by historians. But, they failed to reach a balance that is necessary to govern via the will of the people.
Let’s hope lessons have been learned! A wake-up call has been made! The administration and Congress must come together, as reasonable people, in order to move America forward. Smaller government, balanced budgets, and listening to the will of the people must be the rules of the future. And the pain for the abuses of the past must be borne by everyone! Those that received the most will be the ones to lose the most as the pain comes down! Balance! Balance! Balance!
Obama is trying to achieve “balance” with the extension of the Bush Tax Cuts; but his base is cannibalizing his message as betrayal. I wonder of he can take the heat! It is gonna’ get real interesting for the next two years!!