Thursday, July 28, 2005

A simple test

The Johnson County Sun offers a list of twelve of Moore's major votes:
If you agree with him half or more of the time, it is fair to say our congressman is somewhat in sync with you. If you agree on the vast majority of his votes, you truly are well represented by Moore. If you disagree with a majority of his views, you probably voted against Dennis Moore before and should again.
I agreed on 11/12, though I can't say I have strong feelings for or against the highway bill. Nothing wrong with pork, and he brought plenty back home.

Someone in the comments suggested that Moore's voting pattern suggested the sort of unprincipled politics I complained about before.

I disagree on two grounds. First, I think Moore stands for a sensible moderation. Principled moderation is a difficult concept to pin down, but if you look at the 12 votes, he voted for a less intrusive government that offers help to Americans who need it. Like any one sentence description, that's pretty vague, but it's not a bad way to approach life. A purely libertarian approach ignores the second part of the sentence, and stereotypical liberalism can push help so hard it becomes intrusive. A moderate balances two or more positions and finds a logical medium. (With a little effort, I could reduce this to a single principle and an auxiliary assumption, but I'll spare you.)

The second point of disagreement I have with my commenter is that a practical politician ought to bow to pressure from constituents, at least at times.

I think there is a continuum in political styles. At one end, the stereotypical firebrand, campaigning on one big issue, and then spending time in Warshington pushing that agenda regardless of anything else. They win by convincing a majority of voters that they are right, and holding that support through constant campaigning.

Then there's the stereotypical "finger in the wind" politician. He'll tell you what you want to hear, listening more carefully to big contributors. He stays in office by promising the world, and wheeling and dealing to deliver just enough that people believe his promises.

These are extremes, and all politicians will be a mixture. Tom Delay or Ted Kennedy would be classic examples of firebrands, Lyndon Johnson might be a good example of the finger-in-the-wind politician (though a poor one, that style doesn't lead to national prominence).

Moore falls in the middle, which makes sense for a moderate. He has principles, and they are pretty conventional ones at that. He also knows that his job is to represent his district, and if he were just out there doing his own thing, he would only be representing himself. So he listens to his district, and on an issue where his principles are less applicable or conflicted (free trade is good, poor worker and environmental protections are bad) he ought to listen more carefully to his constituents. To do less would go against the notion of representative democracy.

As a pundit, I can choose what I whine about. As a Congressman, he has to vote on every bill, or have a good excuse for missing the vote. My complaint about FDM is that they chose to criticize Moore (before he voted) on an issue that they seem not to care about.

This is a trend. Their complaints about voting against the Flag Burning amendment were fairly mealymouthed (not to mention poorly reasoned). Their "analysis" of Social Security consisted of cut-n-pastes from 5 year old editorials, not an actual analysis of Social Security reforms, let alone a real proposal. Indeed, the only issue they seem at all excited about is party unity. But they have no idea what to do to unify their party, other than avoid thoughtful comments on the issues, rather than personalities.