Politicians draw heat for ‘evolving’ without explaining
Not too long ago, people could walk into a diner and order the “blue plate special” — a low-priced, standardized meal with “all the fixin’s” for “two bits.”
But over time this fad wore off. You may like the meatloaf and have zero interest in the baked potato. Or be in love with the cherry pie, but turn your nose up at the dinner salad. And let’s be honest, everyone hates the broccoli.
Now, we prefer to pick and choose menu items tailored to our specific tastes.
Our options have grown, along with our waistlines.
And as it turns out, our taste in politics is just as varied and individualized as our taste in food.
Sure, the parties have clearly defined platforms on all of the hot-button issues facing the country, but very few individuals buy into all of those positions indiscriminately.
It’s possible to be the most conservative person in the world on the death penalty, and way to the left on gay marriage.
Americans tend to be a la carte with their politics.
It should be no surprise to us that our elected officials are the same.
But legislators can get in trouble when they hide or obfuscate positions they hold which deviate from the party line when they run for office, and then go to Sacramento and surprise their constituents with an unexpected vote.
That’s when all hell breaks loose.
Currently, the two top legislative leaders in the state Assembly are in the hot seat over this very issue. Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, D-Paramount, is being targeted from the left for a recall after he killed a single-payer health care bill for the year.
Assembly Republican Leader Chad Mayes, R-Yucca Valley, is facing calls from the right to resign his leadership post by various county parties and members of the state GOP board of directors after he and seven other Republican legislators signed on to Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown’s highly coveted cap-and-trade legislation.
Many in the media are decrying these reactions as the elimination of the political center in the Golden State.
USC Political Analyst Sherry Bebitch Jeffe told Capital Public Radio, “As hard as it has been to compromise, it’s getting harder. The ideological splits are getting deeper, and the middle is disappearing. … Sure, we have seen it before. But we haven’t seen it quite so intense in both parties — at least, not that I can remember — at the same time.”
I disagree. Had Rendon run as an opponent of single-payer health care or Mayes run as a supporter of cap-and-trade legislation, their constituents would have been forced to live with their positions. But since they voted against what they implicitly campaigned on, voters are understandably angry.
If a politician has a change of heart, or “evolves” on an issue, it is incumbent upon them to go back to their district and explain it to their constituents before they cast a vote on an impactful piece of legislation. It’s not just smart politics, it’s common decency.
Because of California’s top-two primary system, a plethora of legislators could be facing very expensive, intra-party June and November contests that will require them to spend a lot of energy and money, and could, theoretically, result in them losing their seats.
The moral of the story for politicians is this — honesty is the best policy, always. If you deviate from the party line on an issue, don’t hide it when you run, otherwise it will become very costly and irritating down the road when voters feel like they were deceived.
We don’t vote for the blue plate special, we vote for representatives we can trust; and if we are surprised with political broccoli when we asked for cherry pie — look out.
John Phillips is a CNN political commentator and can be heard weekdays at 3 p.m. on “The Drive Home with Jillian Barberie and John Phillips” on KABC/AM 790.
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