Election season is here, and with it comes bold talk from new politicians aspiring to hold office and incumbents looking to retain their seats. Both groups have one thing in common: They may talk a good game, but once campaign season is over their tunes will change. Promises made will be broken. Priorities will give way to reality, and when it comes time to make hard choices on critical issues, most lawmakers will fold.
This comes as a surprise to no one. People expect very little from their elected representatives. Making excuses for disappointing politicians has virtually become a national pastime. Most people have a low opinion of Congress and their state’s general assembly.
But ask them what they think of their own representatives, and you’ll hear something very different. Often, they’ll be quick to defend their hometown heroes, even if the reality of their performance doesn’t live up to what was promised during their campaigns.
It’s easy to make excuses for people you supported — who told you they’d be in your corner. They may have voted the wrong way, you tell yourself, but they were just being pragmatic. Those bad votes weren’t because they lacked integrity, but because reality simply forced them to stray from their ideals. They didn’t mean to lie to you. They had good intentions.
They say the road to hell is paved with good intentions. Whoever said that obviously never worked in government. The road to hell is paved by well-connected government contractors, atop land seized with eminent domain, and outfitted with unconstitutional red-light cameras and sobriety checkpoints. Good intentions might have inspired the situation we find ourselves in, but government did the legwork while voters looked the other way.
There’s a running joke among those of us who wish to shrink the size and role of government: If you talk about such principles long enough, sooner or later someone will ask the question “but without government, who will build the roads?”
This objection is comical because it misses the point. The choice isn’t between having a limited government and having roads. The choice is whether we demand a government that stands for liberty, or one that does not. Do we hold our representatives accountable for their actions, or make excuses for them based on their “good intentions?”
Of course, voters are presented with false choices regularly. They’re told that even though a politician doesn’t stand up for their rights, they should support them anyway as the “lesser of two evils.” While game theory might suggest such support in a specific election, this same tired argument arises year after year. In a desperate attempt to avoid a terrible outcome, voters often endorse one that isn’t much better.
It’s time to hold our elected officials accountable at every level, regardless of political affiliation. It’s easy to go into an election wearing partisan blinders, convincing yourself that only those on the opposing team have lost their way. Do not fall victim to such preconceptions. Despite the enthusiastic cries of those seeking your vote, this isn’t about Republican vs Democrat, rich vs poor, or majority vs minority.
The ultimate battleground in the fight to preserve liberty has always been the government versus the individual. It’s been said that when the boot of government is on your throat, you won’t care if it’s the right boot or the left one. My guess is that you won’t care about “good intentions” either.