Tuesday, July 7, 2009

When Agreeing Is Disagreeable

Suzanne Elder wrote something very important about agreement and unanimity among legislators. She had Illinois legislators in mind, but Elder's thoughts on the subject could apply to any body of elected representatives in the U.S., whether at the municipal, county or state level. On June 25, she wrote one of the most thoughtful and concisely stated pieces I've ever read anywhere. Elder's post was published at Prairie State Blue (emphasis added): More than half of the bills passed by the Illinois state legislature are agreed-to bills, meaning the final bill is acceptable to all parties, which certainly evinces the art of negotiation and compromise but can also mean that the final product has been made transformed into something worthless using the very same skills. I spoke with several state legislators yesterday about House Bill 7, the campaign reform bill that’s now awaiting the Governor’s signature. They all shared my sense of its inadequacies and echoed the lament of other legislators whose comments I have read: “It could be better but it’s better than nothing” and “This moment won’t come again.” They are cowardly, brainless hacks. Too often, as in the case of H.B.7, legislation is hurried through, rushed to passage, with those lawmakers voting on it often not having read the entire bill. Somehow, "bipartisan" has become a hot buzz word over that past decade. It's so desirable, this publicly fashionable need by our elected representatives to be seen by the voters as more than willing to get along and cooperate with the other side. Here's a shocking truth for you, folks: "bipartisan" is not necessarily a good thing. In fact, I would say that it often is not. Elder thinks so too, apparently, although she expressed it more politely than I will here. She commented, "Doesn’t that sound defeatist? It did to me." There are times, of course, when we want opposing political parties to agree to not disagree over matters such as urgent emergencies or imminent national security threats. But when it comes to decisions about spending your tax dollars and the forcible ways to take those dollars from you, I want the men or women that I voted for to be as contentious and disagreeable with "the other side" as they possibly can be, stopping short of physical violence. In other words, I want my elected officials to fight for me, not to compromise away our freedoms, our money, our futures. I want elected representatives to stand for principles, and be willing to fight for them, public opinion polls be damned, bipartisanship be damned. Too often, those "representatives" stand for nothing but their own re-election. Shamefully, too many voters fall for the comprising bipartisan cooperation defeatist posturing of those spineless, gutless, rudderless politicians. Elder noted that some of the legislators said that the lame, final version of H.B.7 could have been better "but it’s better than nothing" and that “This moment won’t come again.” These statements, made by legislators, are absurd. They are also untrue. Think about it. "It's better than nothing" is not always true. If it was, George Washington and his friends would have reached a nice, agreeable compromise with the King of England. Ben Franklin might have explained Washington's decision as good, because although complete freedom would have been desirable, the nice hypothetical compromise was better than no agreement. Today, in 2009, Americans would still be paying taxes to England. Or would we? "This moment won't come again" is also not necessarily true. To say so with absolute accuracy would require a flawless ability to see into the future, and that there is only one possible future. Nobody has that ability, and there in an infinite number of possible futures for each of us. It is laughable and dishonest for any legislator to say that it will never again be possible to pass a campaign reform bill. Somebody should ask those folks what they mean by that, and why it will never again be possible to pass additional campaign reform laws, or to amend current ones. Those who said that "this moment won't come again" are either morons with no ability to think critically, or are cynical liars. (If you think of a third possibility, please let me know what it is.) Elder wraps up her brilliant little post with this: In the realm of politics and government, I think there are two general tendencies; one is toward competition and the other toward cooperation. I value both but recognize that either tendency set past the standard deviations imperils the quality of our politics and the welfare of our state. We have been awfully quiet and agreeable and we are about to head off a cliff. She's right. Cooperation is generally desirable, but sometimes it can go too far. Had President Ronald Reagan been overly eager to cooperate with the old Soviet Union, the Berlin Wall would probably still be standing and we'd still call Russia the "USSR." Neville Chamberlain was eager to talk with, and reach a compromise with, Adolf Hitler. That was less than helpful, as Hitler laughed it off and went about his business without regard to Chamberlain. While less dramatic, it is no less true that too much cooperation and bipartisanship among legislators sells us all up the river, whether the issue at hand is property taxes, gun ownership, parking fines or speed laws. If we, as Americans, truly value complete bipartisanship and full cooperation among our elected representatives, then let us just forego future elections. Let's just stop wasting time and pretending and get rid of the two-party system, in favor of a single homogenous smiley-faced oh-so-agreeable council of rulers. It worked for Hitler, Stalin and Mao, didn't it? RELATED: The Coming Myth of a "Bipartisan" Health Care Compromise - getliberty.org About Suzanne Elder - Windy City Times Leave a Comment... See Our Online Store Chicago News Bench RSS Feed We're on Twitter...