What should leadership in a representative Democracy be all about? Here are a few possibilities.
Option #1: Should members of Congress use their judgment on things, vote their consciences, attempt to explain their positions on specific issues or pieces of legislation to their constituents, and attempt to lead their districts in the direction they believe we should go? Option #2: should members of Congress just look at the polls, see what the majority of their constituents want to do on any particular subject, and then vote that way? Option #3: should members of Congress simply do what their “base” wants them to do, no matter what, disregarding any responsibility to use their own judgment, or to be a leader, or to the rest of their constituents?
In House Speaker John Boehner’s view, the clear answer is…Option #3. For instance, in this video, Boehner says point blank – to a bunch of Eugene Delgaudio supporters, no less – that Congress “will do EXACTLY what you demand.” Here’s more of what I’m talking about, from Boehner’s appearance on Meet the Press this morning. Asked whether he had a responsibility, as Speaker, to “stand up to that kind of ignorance” (the belief by many Teapublicans that President Obama isn’t a citizen and isn’t a Christian), “Boehner told newsman David Gregory: ‘It’s not my job to tell the American people what to think. Our job in Washington is to listen to the American people.'”
So, let’s see how we’re doing so far on that count. In poll after poll, the clear and overwhelming desire of the American people is for Congress to focus like a laser beam on jobs, jobs, and jobs. On health care reform — which is far behind jobs and the economy on the peoples’ priority list, by the way — only about 26% want to outright repeal health care reform, while 19% want to “leave it as is” and 43% want to “change it so that it does MORE to change the health care system.”
So, of course, Speaker Boehner has kept his pledge to “listen to the American people” and given them “exactly what you demand?” Uh, not quite. Instead, so far the Boehner-led House of Representatives has spend its first few weeks in office voting to outright REPEAL health care reform (again, only 26% support that option), reading the (edited) U.S. Constitution out loud, squabbling among themselves over how badly to slash “discretionary spending” and harm the economy, failing to renew the USA Patriot Act, and essentially spending no time whatsoever on creating jobs or helping the economy.
I’m sorry, but that’s not leadership. Nor is punting on explaining to his “base” that they are 100% wrong when they claim that Barack Obama isn’t a citizen and isn’t a Christian. Yes, John Boehner, explaining stuff like this IS your job; that is, if you want to be a leader and not just a mindless follower of the most extreme elements of your “base.”