Political Courage

When Congressman Jim McDermott pulls 71% of the vote in his district, you have to begin to question the wisdom of Democrats who seemed to abandon their own values in order to react to the polls. Now, I know McDermott represents a fairly liberal Seattle area, and his strategy certainly wouldn’t have worked in San Diego, but I wonder if many people didn’t vote for him simply because they admired the way he stood up for what he believed in, whether they agreed with his position or not.

After all, if your idea of leadership is to blindly follow the polls and vote the way you think your constituents want you to vote, you’re really not much of a leader are you? Instead, you’re a follower, and it’s questionable why anyone should really vote for you. After all, one of the reasons we have a republic and not a democracy was the founding father’s belief that elected leaders would act more wisely than mob rule. While I’m not sure that is always true, I do like to believe it is at least true for the people I vote for.

I suspect that this is precisely the reason Al Gore lost the presidency to an unknown Texan with the famous Bush name. In the debates it was hard to figure out why I had donated $50 to Gore’s campaign. He never talked about the environment, one of his strongest issues in my judgment, probably because he felt he had already cornered that vote and could do nothing but alienate voters who didn’t have the same concerns. Gore constantly looked like he reacting to whatever criticism he had gotten in t he previous debate, rather than acting like himself.

Many democrats in this election, like Gore in the presidential election, tried so hard to crowd the center that they lost anything that distinguished them from their Republican opponents. Although you may not vote against someone for this, you’re certainly not going to be motivated to work for them or to go out of your way to even vote for them. Why not vote for an alternative party, like the Green party, knowing that the candidate you’re voting for isn’t going to win, but at least they’ve earned your respect?

I suspect that the vicious attacks that McDermott’s opponents launched on him, like the veteran’s association or like this one in Capitalism Magazine inspired McDermott’s supporters to get out the vote to ensure that he wasn’t punished for acting on his principles. Surely many voters must have felt like Ellen Ratner felt, when they voted for McDermott.

Luckily, Brian Baird, the congressman that I got to vote for expressed disastisfaction with Bush’s Iraqi agenda and voted consistently for the environment, but it’s too bad other voters didn’t have the kind of clear choice that McDermott offered voters in his district.

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