Posted by Brett Kincaid on June 29th 2012
This seems like a good way to end the week.
Lots of people out there head into this weekend - one many will use to celebrate our nation's independence - elated. Many others are frustrated, confused, or even angry. Such is life in the world's longest successful democracy. Our government is made up of choices and compromises made by elected leaders. Once they are done, the courts rule on how well the legislators did their jobs in accordance with the Constitution. It's a simple premise that is almost always bogged down by overheated rhetoric and an increasing unwillingness to compromise.
With all that in mind, I stumbled upon some very good reading today from Steve Brawner, whose blog Independent Arkansas is linked to Arkansas News. In his column, An Oath and a Pledge Are Enough, Mr. Brawner simply states how lawmakers in Washington have failed us by signing superfluous pledges to limit government revenue or to protect Social Security at all costs. Mr. Brawner does a great job of highlighting how lawmakers from both major American political parties have signed oaths that get in the way of actual governance. As he puts it:
"When members of Congress begin their terms in office, they raise their right hands and say this: 'I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter, so help me God.'
That and the Pledge of Allegiance ought to pretty much cover it.
Unfortunately, in recent years outside groups have been pressing members of Congress to make other pledges. Two have been quite effective in hamstringing public officials: The Taxpayer Protection Pledge and the Social Security Protectors pledge. More than 80 percent of the members of Congress have signed one or the other.
The subtext of this column, at least to me, is that most lawmakers have signed pledges to represent their bases - not their entire constituencies. Both sides of the aisle, at one time or another, adopt a "My Way or the Highway" attitude of government. While there are certainly times in life where strength is required and compromise yields few benefits, those instances are rare and typically involve immediate life-or-death decisions. Those occasions are almost never at play when it comes to legislating.
As our state lawmakers begin the task of understanding their roles in complying with the Affordable Care Act, let's hope they take the advice Mr. Brawner offers in his column today. Let's hope they compromise, work together, and understand that no one ever gets his or her way 100% of the time - so they shouldn't expect it either. We all need to encourage them to do their best, listen to all voices, and try to find the solution that best represents the will of all the people they represent.
That's a pledge worth taking.