Friday, November 5, 2010

With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility

It is easy to get wrapped up in elections and their meaning. In victory or in defeat it is tempting to conclude that in judging our candidates for office, a judgement has also been rendered on our nation, on our philosophy, on our selves. We can forget that politics is a means to an ends. And though we may disagree on the best means, we have a shared vision of those ends. The point of politics is not to grant power to Republicans or to Democrats. The point Democrats and Republicans, and politicians of any creed is to advance the causes of liberty and prosperity.

There are many factors that contribute to the mad mood swings of the American electorate - reason and propaganda, hope and fear, optimism and despair. Politicians are swept in and out of office on these waves. Sometimes their electoral fate is deserved. Sometimes it is not. Whether they are coming or going, our representatives are best judged by their accomplishments on our behalf.

Viewed through this lens, I’m sorry to see Carol Shea-Porter and Paul Hodes will no longer be representing New Hampshire in congress. They were both elected as part Democratic wave of 2006. In the past two years they’ve been active participants in Obama’s “do something” congress. Both supported the significant legislative accomplishments that provided stability in the face of economic calamity. They enacted essential and overdue reforms to our health care and financial systems. They were the rare politicians who were willing to engage with the real and serious issues facing this country. They served during a brief era when congress took on big issues and things got done. In all likelihood that era ended this week. I’m especially sorry to see Carol Shea-Porter go. She is someone I genuinely admired as a person and politician and is someone I hope to support again in future elections.

Shea-Porter and Hodes have been replaced by Republicans Frank Guinta and Charile Bass. In the senate Kelly Ayotte replaces retiring Judd Gregg. Their predecessors confronted a number of tough issues but left plenty of unfinished business. How will we restore robust economic growth? How will we put an end to trillion dollar budget deficits? What are we going to do about the millions of undocumented aliens living and working in this country? Will we confront the challenge of catastrophic global climate change? They sought and have been granted this power. It is now the responsibility of Frank Guinta and Kelly Ayotte to answer these questions.

Based on their election rhetoric and policy positions, I am skeptical that my new representatives have plans to confront the problems we face. I hope that this skepticism is not shared by the majority of New Hampshire voters. I assume that their supporters see opportunity where I do not. What solutions will they support? How do they plan to move the country forward? Our new representatives have the power and responsibility to legislate on our behalf. We’ve elected then. Now all of their constituents, especially the majority that voted for them, need to hold them accountable.

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