People who spend too much time around politics tend to get cynical. They assume the only reason some policies are promoted is to gain political advantage. Today’s front-page story in the Republic is typical. Rather than assume Republicans actually want to stop illegal immigration, every policy Republicans in Congress pursue toward that end is presented by the media as “politically motivated” rather than based on principle:
… Seeking an early edge for next year’s elections, House Republicans have forced several immigration votes on seemingly unrelated legislation since Democrats took control …
Of course there is nothing wrong with putting elected officials on record, especially if they are trying to distort or misrepresent their record to constituents. And the fact that you want voters to be aware of unpopular policies of elected officials does not mean you really don’t care about the underlying policy.
But political consequences should never be the only goal of legislation.
When I led a policy organization, on more than one occasion politicians, staff members or the media asked “What’s your angle?” or “What are you after?” when we pursued certain policies. Our response — “We believe this is the right thing to do” — seemed incomprehensible to political animals who were used to thinking only in terms of electoral advantages and consequences.
Sadly, there are too many politicians who do indeed think first of personal political gain rather than policy. This abuse of the public trust not only feeds the media’s natural cynicism, but contributes to the public’s distaste for politicians and the political process — none of which is good for our representative democracy.