October 25, 2005
On the Miers nomination Robert at Watchman's Words asks,
When it comes to the subject of loyalty and support, who owes whom? To what degree does a President owe his supporters the fulfillment of his campaign promises? To what degree do a President's supporters owe him their support when he does not (or appears to not) fulfill those promises? Who bears the responsibility for a split in ranks--the leader or the followers?
A key principle in politics is prudence. Sometimes a political promise can't be kept because of changing situations. Maybe the reason Harriet Miers was picked was because all President Bush's other choices declined. If that's the case the President should have done some serious thinking to find a way to make the nomination process less politically charged.
A politician is selected by his constituents for his judgement. He is not a rubber stamp of the public's will. The politician shouldn't come to his decision based on opinion polls. He's in office to use his mind and mouth to do what he thinks is right. The constituents have the opportunity to judge him at election tim or if the politician is really bad by recall.
Similarly, constituents must use prudence in determining if the politician has broken a campaign promise and for what reason. The constituents have to examine whether the political, economic, or cultural environment has changed to make the promise impossible to fulfill or to drain the politician's reserve of political capital so as to make him unless in tackling other issues. Few politicians run solely on one issue. Likewise, most voters don't care only about one issue. It becomes a process of weighing the costs and benefits of addressing particular issues.
For both sides communication is key. The politician needs to convey why he's doing what he's doing in a way his constituents can accept (but not always in a way to tip off his political opponents). Constituents need keep their eyes on the politician and let him know when they opprove or disapprove of his actions. Handling this give-and-take is part of what makes politics an art rather than a science.
"Which Way Does the Arrow of Responsibility Point?"