Mike Kueber's Blog

March 25, 2012

Spineless politicians

Filed under: Issues,Politics — Mike Kueber @ 4:04 am
Tags: , ,

The biggest issue in this year’s campaign for the Republican presidential nomination is whether Mitt Romney is a dependable conservative or someone who is running as a conservative but will govern as a moderate.  This charge resonates with Romney because he has a history of governing as a moderate when he was governor of Massachusetts, and now his campaign positions are more conservative.  As all litigators know, whenever individuals have given two different answers to the same question, they are vulnerable to charge that they were either lying then or they are lying now.  Either way the individual is shown to be a liar.

A Texas example of shifting positions was recently reported in the Texas Tribune.      Texas Comptroller Susan Combs is planning to run for lieutenant governor in 2014, but such a run is problematic because she started her career as a pro-choice state rep in Travis County, where being pro-choice is acceptable.  Such a position is not acceptable, however, in a state-wide race for lieutenant governor in the Republican Party.  Not surprisingly, Combs changed her abortion position last year and now opposes abortion except in cases of rape, incest, or the life-threatening complications.  But the true believers wonder whether Combs is dependable.

President Obama is in the process of doing the same conversion thing in connection with the issue of same-sex marriage.  During his campaign in 2008, he opposed same-sex marriage because otherwise he would have been hammered by Hilary Clinton on the issue.  But the country (and even more so, the Democratic Party) is moving left on this issue, and President Obama last year started laying the groundwork for reversing his position by declaring that his position was beginning to “evolve.”  I don’t think there is any question the he has always favored same-sex marriage, but declined to take a principled position because it would hurt him electorally.  Now he is making an electoral calculation that being in favor of same-sex marriage will no longer hurt him.

I agree that voters have a right to be skeptical about politicians who significantly modify their positions to accommodate political considerations.  But ultimately that is what politicians should do in a democracy.  Politicians retain their legitimacy only as long as they faithfully represent their constituents.  Furthermore, although politicians might occasionally take principled positions contrary to the wishes of their constituents, they can’t do it very often if they want to retain the support of those constituents.


  1. water is wet, sky is blue; politicians have no spine…

    what is your real point?


    Comment by Q — April 1, 2012 @ 7:00 pm | Reply

    • Several points, but probably the most important is that people with strong opinions have an inordinate amount of influence.

      Comment by Mike Kueber — April 1, 2012 @ 7:36 pm | Reply

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