As citizens, its not our job to present to the politician a position thats not fully our own or is a pre-compromised version of it because we think that the compromise is more likely to be turned into legislation.
When we do that, were ensuring that politicians do not know what we really think while communicating that we arent convinced that our position should matter that much. Were implying that politicians need not consider our actual stand in the process.
When I pre-compromise, Im moving toward a position that isnt mine and actually affirming the opposite of my own view by that very move. Im communicating that I believe the opposing position is just as worthwhile, so politicians should feel free to move in that direction.
Pre-negotiating ones needs and wants before expressing them doesnt help politics, marriages, or even leadership in any organization. It merely means that the other in such relationships, the one for whom we pre-mediate our own positions, will never really know what we think. Our culture especially tells women to pre-compromise.
A citizen, as well, isnt an uncritical follower of any politician, even those weve voted for and probably will again. I dont expect any politician to agree with me on everything, and must let them know when I agree and dont. Im surprised when I have no gripes.
Our job is to keep those whove chosen to represent us informed of our views. You can bet that the right-wing will do it incessantly, and the squeaky wheel will get the most grease.
Politicians, though, have deliberately chosen to take on the citizen-paid job of actually working to implement the opinions of those they represent. That will at times require compromise.
Sometimes that compromise will be to incrementally change things. And well know that that is the reason when the politician tells us about their plans for the next step after the success of this increment.
At times the politician must compromise because there are, frankly, different valid and logical ways to do things. Then its the politicians job to explain that to us and answer our questions in a way that looks as if theyre listening and without mere reliance on talking points.
A good politician doesnt act like an old-fashioned cash register where we push a key and theirs is the automatic response. A good politician and there are few of these is a leader who takes the time to explain, arguing that their decision was better than ours and showing us why we should follow their thinking.
But there are also times when nefarious reasons compromise a politician Is the politician taking a stand based upon whose money dominates their lives? Does the politician not have a core set of values that will make them stand for something, proving they believe it even if theyre willing to lose for it? Has the politician sunk to the lesser goal of merely getting elected and maintaining power? What will the politician gain personally by their position?
All of this means that democracy and representative government is just plain messy. When corporations are in charge, things are clean. When democracy kills you, its a mess; when corporations do, its all neat and tidy.
Its the difference between a national chain coffee shop and your local dive. The corporate place is neat and orderly with a limited number of approved psoters and papers nicely displayed. In the local non-corporate establishment, theres a bit of chaos, disorderliness, and a variety of local notices and publications cluttering the tables and the bulletin boards.
Recognizing all this then, were guaranteed to disagree. Social media amplifies that rhetoric.
The key is to keep liberal and progressive movements together, and weve not been very good at that. Weve also learned that Russian cyber-warriors work to exploit us into thinking that what they portray about a candidate and their supporters is reality.
Yes, yes, everyone should know that no candidate is perfect I had problems with positions of both major Democratic presidential candidates and also knew realistically that the Democratic Party nominee was my only practical choice.
And I didnt frame the discussion ever as the least bad choice but in terms of better choices. When we frame it as the former we discourage anyone were trying to convince and encourage Republicans. Studies show that the negative in campaigns works to keep voters home on Election Day more than to strengthen our side.
But when people complain about a candidate, its passive aggressive or worse to label the critic as seeking a perfect candidate or requiring a purity test. Those responses shut down discussion and split us all. Theyre not measured, rational, or helpful.
Its difficult to just stay on a positive message about the better candidate we support. We take disagreements as personal attacks even though were citizens not the politicians whove volunteered for the fray.
Its difficult to admit where our own choice isnt perfect by admitting we agree with the criticism and yet discussing why we stick with them. No wonder former generations recommended we never discuss politics or religion.
There are also cultural factors that definitely influence peoples criticisms more than people want to admit. Sexism, ageism, classism, white racism, able-bodied-ism, beautyism and others are persistently systemic. But pointing them out can be done a number of ways some just not helpful.
Our responses to critics tell us more about ourselves and our fears and disappointments. When we get caught up, lets face it, it becomes hard to listen to critics and to envision what will be needed to move the Party we favor forward.
But as citizens, our obligation is always to inform politicians where we stand and expect them to work it out. American historian Howard Zinn put it this way: When a social movement adopts the compromises of legislators, it has forgotten its role, which is to push and challenge the politicians, not to fall in meekly behind them.
© 2018 Robert N. Minor
Robert N. Minor, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus at the University of Kansas, is author of When Religion Is an Addiction; Scared Straight: Why Its So Hard to Accept Gay People and Why Its So Hard to Be Human; and Gay & Healthy in a Sick Society. Contact him at www.FairnessProject.org
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