Healthcare. It used to be a swear word to conservative Republicans, and the defendable pride and joy of liberal democrats. Now no matter what side you are on it is an embarrassing mess. (Which I wish more politicians would vocalize. The Republicans should not be cheering the failure of the bill as much as they are, they should also be lamenting that our government would do anything this poorly. It’s embarrassing, even if you just mentioned the website).
But the larger problem at hand at the moment is, to what extent do we hold our politicians responsible for doing a poor job, lying, or being ignorant. I am going to use Mr. President as an example, not in order to bash him by any means; in fact I hope to have an opinion that is understanding and kind so as to be an example to both political parties. I want to use him as an example because he has been in the media enough that most people know what has been going on (In fact I feel free to write this because both the liberal and conservative media have been upset at the handling of the healthcare law), and he is a singular example that everyone will know and can then hold congressman, senators, and local politicians to the same standard.
Mr. President, as shown on both conservative and liberal media, have been pointing out inconsistencies in what was promised, and what has actually been delivered. There are three possible reasons for inconsistencies in what was said and what happens.
The first is that the politician lied. This is the easiest to jump to and proclaim when it is someone of the opposing party, however, if we want politicians to have integrity, we must also have the integrity to patiently give them the benefit of the doubt and treat them better than we think they are treating us.
The second is that they were ignorant. Being ignorant is difficult to deal with as it is part of their job to be in the know. They are being paid to be professionals and know what is going on. Just like generals in the military must know what is going on in combat, if they don’t people die. If politicians do not know what is going on, then people suffer. However, they are only human so at times they cannot know everything. Furthermore, they could have bad advisors. To a great extent they are responsible for having good enough judge of character to pick good advisors.
Thirdly is that something changed from when they made the promise. Most of the time when this happens I don’t give them much grace because they shouldn’t not have made a promise about a decision that they could not enforce themselves. Blaming other political leaders, the system, the voters, etc. is not an excuse. They know full well the obstacles in their way.
So, Mr. President is either a liar, ignorant, or a foolish promise maker. Personally I believe he is the latter of the two. He should have read the bill and had the right advisors to know the vague areas that could be applied in various ways. He also should not have made a promise on how it would be enacted when that is not in his jurisdiction.
How do we respond? We need to hold all of our elected officials to a higher standard. If they are ignorant or incapable we should call them on it. But we must also not be too harsh. We must leave room for dreamers and visionaries. Martin Luther King’s dream was not realized in his life time. But we should not fault him for pursuing something big. We must be able to recognize ignorance and abuse of a position and the attempt to dream big dreams and pursue them.