Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The Problem With Populism

In the current dust up over the financial crisis and the proposed rescue plan, a number of conservative voices have been talking about how Congress needed to respect the "will of the people" and refuse to acquiesce to voting for the plan. This always disturbs me as there seems to be a select judgment on just when this "will of the people" should hold sway. In 2006, when the public favored immediate pullout from Iraq, you didn't see a lot of Republicans calling for such fealty to what the people wanted. Democrats play the same card too, invoking the "people's will" whenever it happens to be convenient.

The truth of the matter is that while the will of the people should also be considered by our elected representatives, it should not be paramount. We elect these folks to decide what they believe is best for their constituents and in the case of the Congress, for the United States of America. If we wanted automatons who would just push a button based on the latest polling data from their district on a particular issue, we could save a lot of grief and money by sending 535 monkeys to Washington instead (insert cheap joke here).

If members of the House voted against the rescue plan because they honestly believe that it is not in the best interests of the country and that it would not help avert much more serious economic problems, I have no problem with their vote and respect their decision. But if they voted against the plan because they're worried about how it might impact their chances in November even if they believe it was the right thing to do, then they are cravenly cowards who deserve nothing but contempt. In times of crisis, we need leaders willing to make tough decisions and lead the way. Following the voice the people is easy, but it isn't always right.

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