Monday, February 17, 2014

Throw the RASCALS Out

No Honest Man

There is a school of thought that advocates turning over federal and state legislatures in a clean sweep.  The reasoning, as I understand it, is that there comes a time in the life of a congressman that his loyalties turn from his constituents toward his own and his party's survival.  The legislative body follows the model of bureaucracies in which the desire for increased power eventually trumps the mission -- the protection of turf becomes equivalent to the protection of self.  There may be some superficial merit to this argument, but until the time arrives when all politicians are certifiably corrupt, there is greater merit in the exercise of prudence.

By way of example if one finds that his representative has demonstrated the character to maintain fidelity to his principles, and the principles accord with those of the voter, it would seem ungrateful in the extreme to toss him out.  That is particularly true if the representative has shown courage -- risking his political capital -- in fidelity to principle.

The good guys in Congress are sometimes hard to spot; many do not go out of the way to call attention to themselves outside their constituencies.  They go about their day-to-day business quietly and responsibly, and they are easy to lose among the noisy, egoistic charlatans -- the very rascals who deserve tossing.  But how is a voter to separate the wheat from the chaff?

1.  Follow the issues while ignoring the clamor of media pundits, party spokesmen (both parties) and political consultants.  Be alert for logical fallacies and try to parse emotional appeal from empirical fact.

2.  Note whether your representative is willing to depart from lines taken by his party's leadership when principles important to you are at stake, keeping in mind that his independent stance may come at personal and political cost.  This is particularly important now, given the fecklessness and self-serving dishonesty rife in the leadership of the Republican Party.  Representatives who fail to toe the party line are often denied committee assignments and money from campaign coffers is denied them.

3.  If your representative departs from the apparent will of his constituency, determine if and how that position can be justified.  Again, try to sort out the conflict between principles that are involved.  While I strongly favor republican over majoritarian government, I look very carefully at the reasons for a legislator's decision to oppose the will of the voters who elected him.

4.  Shortcuts.  Though potentially fraught with danger, if I am unable to follow an issue with the attention it deserves (or when I'm not satisfied with my own comprehension), I tend to support the positions of organizations I have come to trust.  As a conservative I will generally follow the recommendations of the Senate Conservatives Fund, the Club for growth, Heritage Action, and some gun lobbies among others. *

A short list, to be sure, but I find it useful.  Almost certainly there are other criteria -- and perhaps better ones -- that can be used to determine one's decisions about voting, financial support and political activism.  I'd be interested to hear about them.

In summary I'm taking the position that we should resist the temptation to categorize all politicians as corrupt.  We should support those who are not -- who are honest, ethical, principled and smart.  Otherwise the good guys will retire from the political arena, and we will, indeed, have only rascals left.

* ---------------
For all its good works, I am not much swayed by the Conservative Union in its tabulation of Congressional voting records; in my view, quantity tends to obscure quality.  Which is to say that it is not the total number of conservative votes, so much as decisions made on crucial issues -- immigration, spending etc.

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