February 5th, 2008

Measuring Political Effectiveness


photo credit: minivan cooley

In a recent conversation with a family member, I was asked regarding Ron Paul’s effectiveness and his ability to get things done in Congress. This question was posed to benchmark my preferred presidential candidate’s ability to make things happen and see his cause be realized.

My response was, in essence, a rebuttal of the common method of measuring political effectiveness.

How are we to determine a leaders’ effectiveness? Speaking specifically with regard to politics, what benchmark should be administered to test a person’s capacity for effecting change?

The more important question in this matter is often ignored: what is to be measured? So-called “liberal” and “conservative” politicians alike both have their respective successes. They “get things done”. And yet we largely ignore the more important matter of just what it is they are getting done.

What’s right and true should never, ever be determined by what’s successful en masse. One might say that the gospel hasn’t been successful at all with its limited reach and acceptance, yet that doesn’t matter. Defining what somebody has done is best benchmarked by viewing the fundamental principles they are championing.

Socialist senators have gotten things done. Legislating judges have gotten things done. Saddam got things done. Does that make their causes right? Does the biblical prophet crying in the wilderness prove ineffective simply because nobody heeds his message?

Defending the Constitution and fighting for the same liberty the Founders secured for us has not been very popular in our day. This is demonstrated in Congressman Paul’s “farewell” speech in 1984 after leaving Congress during his first tenure. Noting his apparent inability to promote the cause of freedom, Paul commented:

Since the time of our founding, few who have come to the Congress have been remembered for championing the cause of freedom. This is a sign of a declining nation and indicates that respect for freedom is on the wane.

Serving here has been a wonderful experience, and the many friendships will be cherished. I am, however, the first to admit the limited impact I’ve had on the legislative process. By conventional wisdom, I am “ineffective,” unable to trade votes, and champion anyone’s special privilege — even my own district’s. It places me in a lonely category here in Washington. If the political career is not the goal sought, possibly the measuring of “effectiveness” should be done by using a different standard.

Just causes should never be weighed by popularity, for it is almost always the errant, wide path that attracts more people. Elder Callister said “Truth has never been dependent on the number who embrace it.” I fully agree with that, and that’s why we must judge leaders not based on what they claim to be able to “get done”, but rather according to the Lord’s standard in D&C 98:10 where he tells us to support honest and wise men.

I propose, then, that one’s effectiveness should never be a measure of how much fruit they’ve produced, but what type of fruit it is. A “liberal” congressman might draft a bill creating more welfare, and see great success in his cause. Does this make the cause a good one? A “conservative” senator might find enough support to pass a bill rescinding habeas corpus. Is this politician to be regarded as effective and hard working?

Until our political debate returns to fundamental principles and underlying axioms, the course charted by Congress will continue to lead us down a destructive path from whence we cannot easily return. Leaders deemed “effective” in the eyes of a misinformed, welfare-hungry electorate lack the moral underpinnings that are necessary preserve our liberties and live up to the oath they take upon assuming their office.

It is a sad day when effectiveness has essentially become a synonym for collusion, hypocrisy, moral relativity, and shifting standards.

7 Responses to “Measuring Political Effectiveness”

  1. Janet
    February 6, 2008 at 7:56 pm #

    I like you Connor. You are so wonderfully blunt with your straight talk. You cut right to the heart of the issues. Have you ever considered law school and a political career? If you did, you would have my vote:)

  2. Scott
    February 6, 2008 at 8:13 pm #

    You echo thoughts I have long had. Years ago when Bill Clinton created the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument, I was insensed that this was all done without public input. A friend of mine said that the monument was a good idea and that it never would have happened if the public had its say. I was incredulous. Whether the monument was a good idea or not, the duplicitous method in which it was created circumvented the workings of good democratic and republican principles (applying the actual meanings of those terms rather than any kind of agenda). Good intentions, and even good short-term outcomes, do not justify bad methods.

  3. Russ
    February 6, 2008 at 11:17 pm #

    “Pride does not look up to God and care about what is right. It looks sideways to man and argues who is right.” Ezra Taft Benson, first conference address as prophet of the Church.

  4. Connor
    February 7, 2008 at 1:45 pm #

    Janet,

    My father-in-law once suggested that I would make a good lawyer or a good pharisee. Perhaps the line between the two are somewhat blurred. Not sure if he meant that as a compliment or not. :)

  5. Eric Nielson
    February 8, 2008 at 9:48 am #

    Sometimes I think less is more from a politician.

  6. Jeff Liindsay
    February 24, 2009 at 9:50 pm #

    Michael Medved today on his talk show criticized Ron Paul briefly, stating that he had failed to gain support from his fellows “in the House,” and that his work “in the House” had been ineffective. Having heard Medved also slur Ron Paul before the election, I am not surprised that Medved – like almost everyone in talk radio, the media, etc. – completely fails to understand the first thing about Ron Paul and his message.

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