As much as I hate the health care bills, I have to agree with Galston on this point. Obama should not change his tactics based on popular opinion polls. A leader must act on his campaign promises and what he thinks is right. Our government is a republic with elected representatives, not a direct democracy. We will have our chance to vote him out if we do not like the direction in which he leads.
That said, I do think Obama should end his efforts to pass the healthcare reforms he is currently promoting*. Not because the general public doesn't like them...but because they are economically disastrous and, more importantly, antithetical to the fundamental principles of individual rights and liberty. In other words, not because the opposition is numerous, but because it is right.
I couldn't disagree more strongly with Obama's health care reform proposals for the multitude of reasons I have written about on this blog, but I do not want the expectation for our leaders to be that they must constantly change course in response to the ebb and flow of public opinion. Policies must be formulated based on in-depth understanding of the issues and upon legal and political expertise. Our leaders' opinions and actions should change because they are convinced by argument and evidence--not simply by how many agree or disagree. (A million Frenchmen can be wrong.)
In a constitutional republic, such as we have, it is essential that we elect representatives whose judgment we can trust. The general public can not and should not be voting on every concrete detail of every legislation. We must elect individuals of high personal integrity who hold fundamental principles with which we agree. Once elected, we must demand our representatives remain loyal to the principles espoused while obtaining our votes. Ideological consistency is not an act to be condemned but a virtue to be achieved--and if that consistency is achieved by a political party, then partisanship is commendable.
I applaud President Obama for his ideological consistency while I condemn him for his choice of ideals. If he is successful in passing his disastrous "reform", I hope that our judicial branch has the wisdom to recognize it as a violation of Constitutionally guaranteed liberties. And if that check fails, I hope that the American citizenry will elect new legislative and executive leaders who will work towards re-establishing a government limited to the protection of individual rights. And if that doesn't happen, I will continue to speak out and try to persuade my fellow citizens at every opportunity and with every spare minute, until the truth of the principles of liberty, and its roots in individual rights, are understood and fully embraced, because
* I also find the manner in which he portrays his disagreement fraught with arrogance and condescension. Neither of these attitudes bode well for honest or fruitful discourse.
Some quotes from a few Founding Fathers on the role of representatives in a republic:
James Madison In popular Governments the danger lies in an undue sympathy among individuals composing a majority, and a want of responsibility in the majority to the minority. The characteristic excellence of the political System of the U. S. arises from a distribution and organization of its powers, which at the same time that they secure the dependence of the Govt. on the will of the nation, provides better guards than are found in any other popular Govt. against interested combinations of a Majority against the rights of a Minority." from Note to His Speech on the Right of Suffrage, paragraph 7
Alexander Hamilton When occasions present themselves in which the interests of the people are at variance with their inclinations, it is the duty of the persons whom they have appointed to be the guardians of those interests, to withstand the temporary delusion, in order to give them time and opportunity for more cool and sedate reflection." from Federalist #71
George Washington: To err is natural; to rectify error is glory. Source: none Washington is also credited with telling Jefferson that the Senate was created to "cool" the legislation of the House as a saucer is to cool hot tea. I couldn't verify a source on that one either.