Yesterday, we highlighted GOP U.S. Senate candidate Mark Kirk's recent explanation of his shifting position on cap-and-trade. Here's the short version: Kirk said that he voted in favor of the House bill earlier this year because it represented the "narrow interests" of his ...
Yesterday, we highlighted GOP U.S. Senate candidate Mark Kirk's recent explanation of his shifting position on cap-and-trade. Here's the short version: Kirk said that he voted in favor of the House bill earlier this year because it represented the "narrow interests" of his base in the 10th Congressional District; but if elected to the Senate he would vote against the proposal out of deference to his new, broader constituency.
In a Mechanics post today, Daniel Strauss makes a good point in response:
The danger is that this campaign angle could work. Kirk could get elected thinking that as long as he pays close attention to public opinion and makes decisions with it in mind, he'll be a great politician. But crafting strong legislation takes a long time and requires a great deal of certainty by politicians for good policies to pass. In contrast, public opinion can (and often does) change in the blink of an eye. As I've said in the past, in theory it makes sense to pay attention to only their constituents in deciding what stance to take but in actuality that's not such a good idea. Public opinion is an incredibly undependable entity, good policy is not. Politicians need to be stubborn to a degree because even those who they represent will have doubts at moments.
I briefly touched on this issue during my appearance on Ray Hanania's WJJG radio show this morning. My point is essentially this: All "flip-flops" are not created equal. Policy shifts made solely on the basis of political preservation deserve to be roundly criticized. On the other hand, lawmakers should be free to modify their position on individual issues, as long as they can explain what new information or analysis led to their change in thinking. After all, we elect public officials to be more focused and more informed than us on the policy matters of the day -- not to simply be conduits for our own shifting opinions.
Kirk's recent comments on cap-and-trade show that, despite branding himself as an "independent," he will take whatever position best ensures victory in the nearest election -- even if it flies in the face of his longstanding record. This might appease the right-wing of his party. Unfortunately for him, that population is gradually diminishing in Illinois. And there are many other voters out there who are sure to be turned off.