Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Respect Is Not the Same as a Vote

Photo: Texas Governor Rick Perry, Flickr Creative Commons

This morning I gave Rick Perry a little more respect. I still wouldn't vote for the guy. He gleefully revels in political positions that I either find abhorrent or at least think deserve more careful consideration and less reckless certainty.

Still, it takes guts to defend, without equivocation, a political decision you've made in front of a crowd you should know will hate you for it, and that's exactly what Perry did last night. When asked about his decision to allow children of illegal immigrants to pay in-state tuition at public universities in Texas, Perry did not back down. To him, it was the right decision. End of discussion. Who cares if the crowd is booing and elections are a popularity contest. I'm sure this was much more difficult for him than it was to answer a question about the death penalty when the crowd cheered when the moderator brought up the record number of people put to death while he was governor.

Of course, it's easy for me to respect him this time, too. I agree with him on the in-state tuition issue. Would I respect him if he'd been booed about the death penalty and he stood by his past decisions just as firmly? That's an odd scenario as no Republican audience would ever boo the death penalty, but if they had?

Yes, I'd have respected him for not quivering in the face of public opinion, but I wouldn't be writing about it because I wouldn't like his opinion. Ron Paul is really the best example of this. When he leaves the Republican party line, it's often to head into hardcore libertarian areas. I tend to agree with libertarians on social issues, but when it comes to government services, I'm often in disagreement. I respect the guy for not backing down even when he knows some of his ideas are going to be unpopular with regular Republicans. I just don't write about him much, partly because he's not really important and partly because I don' t like the opinion he's standing up for.

Does it matter? I don't know. I still wouldn't vote for either one of them, and, honestly, a lot of times it's better if a guy is willing to change his mind or at least accept nuance in the issues.

But, god, will that get a guy crucified in public opinion.

And that may be the more important issue here. Do we really need leaders who are certain that they are entirely in the right? Shouldn't a leader be willing to admit mistakes, change their mind when new information arises that shows previous positions were wrong? Shouldn't we encourage politicians to admit the nuance and gray areas of the issues and treat them accordingly? Of course we should, but every last one of us will write off a president or other major politician as weak, wishy-washy, or worse if they try any of that. Obviously, with the Perry thing, I do it too.


Courtney said...

It's a shame, but we don't allow politicians to be wishy-washy or admit they were ever wrong. All part of the "we're right, they're wrong" approach to politics that I abhor.

But I agree with you about respecting someone who owns up to who they are, even if they're dead wrong. The other day I saw a video in which Bachmann said outright that she believes gay people are possessed by Satan, but when the interviewer later called her a homophobe, she hemmed and hawed and said, "Oh, no, I believe gay people deserve our respect." Seriously?! Clearly she IS a homophobe, so why not just admit it? It would actually be refreshingly honest, even though she's still a complete wackadoo.

Jacob said...

I loved it when Ron Paul was asked what should happen if a healthy 30-year-old man chose not to buy health insurance and then came down with a life-threatening illness he couldn't treat. Paul when on a speech about how freedom means taking some risks. When the moderator followed up with the obvious "So, should we let him die because he's not insured?," Paul couldn't answer. Honestly, I think he painted himself into a corner. he's a serious libertarian, but I don't think he'd seriously advocate letting people die because they can't afford treatment and he didn't seem to see where this hypothetical situation was going until it was too late to recover.

Honestly, that was just bad debating. I think he tried to bluff and got called.

Now, when the crowd started cheering and yelling "Let him die!" they were standing by their convictions, but sometimes I think the convictions are much worse than being wishy washy.

Let me be clear, if you cheer for sick people to die because they don't have health insurance, you are a bad person.

Jacob said...

And maybe bluffing is the wrong word. He used his formula for answering questions through a libertarian lens without thinking it through all the way.

I think libertarianism should be more of an influence and less of a overriding principal. A lot of the people who call themselves libertarians seem pretty reasonable, but the hardcore types would basically only be happy in Somalia.

Mickey said...

I like your Somalia analogy in that last comment. I was recently thinking along the same lines when I realized that we already tried libertarianism/free-market conservatism: it was called the 19th century and we did things like slaughter Indians and die from cholera.

Sid said...

Read this. Don't really understand the concept of "in-state" tuition. So I'm doing some research. From what i can tell most ppl are simply pissed that illegals are being allowed into universities at all. Let alone being allowed to pay lower rates.