Re-energized by the rhetoric of last night’s State of the Union address, Democrats who have been feeling defeated lately set out to showcase their fighting spirit today with the message, “We Don’t Quit”.  Maybe this is to reassure their base of their commitment to the liberal agenda, but it’s in conflict with the rhetoric they employed to reassure their base during the Bush administration.  Mindy Finn tweets:

Received emails from Obama and Pelosi with “We don’t quit.” Yet, pursuit of unpopular policies is what they harshly criticized Bush for.

And she’s pegged the left’s inconsistency.  But if the right is supposed to defend the pursuit of your goals whether they’re popular or not, isn’t it at least a little disingenuous for us to suggest that the Democrats have failed to learn the lesson of Massachusetts ie that it was a rejection of the liberal agenda?  Of course Brown’s victory did represent a response to that agenda and of course we’d like the Democrats to abandon it since we oppose it on policy grounds but do we really want to make the statement that politicians are supposed to subjugate principles to poll numbers?

Maybe we do.  There’s a good enough argument to be made that the primary purpose of representatives is to reflect in official action the desires of the people and that being responsive to public sentiment serves the interest of Democracy.  At its root the question is whether inconsistency or unresponsiveness is the greater betrayal of constituents.

But the game in Washington is to change the answer to this question based on the present set of circumstances.  That neither side has an interest in espousing a consistent view of how the game is supposed to be played creates a situation in which there’s no winning, a paradox which probably contributes to Americans’ dim view of politicians in general.

I tend to think the honorable thing to do is stick to your principles and strive for the policy you believe best for the country (and yes, this means liberals are supposed to pursue liberal policies, much as I hope they fail) even if it means bucking the trend or risking your reelection.  But I think I might settle for politicians who are at least clear and consistent on their view of how their craft is supposed to be practiced.

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