No one likes to talk about “accountability.” It’s become kind of a dirty word.

We like being given credit, and we can stomach a “friendly criticism.” Most people, though, rebel against accountability – personally and professionally. You know where this is going.

And, yes, I know the election is over and some are wondering why I’m talking about accountability now. It is because the need for accountability never ends. It is because the politicians made a lot of promises the last several months, and now the citizens must demand they deliver without excuse.

Frankly, the lack of political accountability is destroying our nation.

In part, it is because we treat the art of governing like a game. Most of us focus on the major leagues, the Elephants versus the Donkeys. A few people enjoy the minors, with less sexy names like “Greens” and “Libertarians.”

In the gamification of politics, though, none of us actually want to be seen as criticizing our own team. We vehemently condemn “the others,” even when its our team stabbing us in the back.

First, we need to back off from the political teams and sides, and remember that as citizens we are the masters and guardians of this republic and our rights. Not the politicians or the bureaucrats.

Second, we need to stop treating politicians like celebrities; they are our servants. If at lunch a waiter spills coffee in your colleagues lap and laughs about it, you’re unlikely to leave a tip or even visit that restaurant again. It’s not personal, you just don’t want to take the risk of wearing coffee.

Third, its easier to blame someone else. It’s easier to assign fault to politicians from somewhere else, than to admit we might have made a bad choice in a previous election. If the incumbent on our ballot was a disappointment, doesn’t that mean we failed?

So, in defiance of rationality, we re-elect our own incumbents while wanting everyone else to ditch theirs. We want political accountability to be what other voters do to their incumbents.

Instead, we should treat electing politicians just like we do hiring employees in our businesses. When an employee doesn’t work out, the business owner or hiring manager doesn’t take it personally; those things happen. The resume and interview were great, but the employee failed to perform. Move on to someone who will.

The results of an “accountability” mindset might end on election day, but it starts again the day after the election. We must be in constant communication with both our elected servants and our fellow citizens. We must continually remind the politicians of our expectations, and encourage our neighbors and friends to do likewise.

We must be tracking the servants’ performance, or lack thereof, and ensure they know that we know what they are doing in our name – for better or for worse.

Yes, there is an entire industry in our state and national capitals devoted to shielding politicians from accountability. But those efforts only work when the citizens aren’t actively engaged.

In this self-governing republic, accountability must be our civic watchword. We must give credit where it is due, assign blame for failure, and always do so by putting the ideals of liberty – the ideals of America – first.

 

Michael Quinn Sullivan

Michael Quinn Sullivan is the publisher of Texas Scorecard. He is a native Texan, a graduate of Texas A&M, and Eagle Scout. Previously, he has worked as a newspaper reporter, magazine contributor, Capitol Hill staffer, think tank vice president. Michael and his wife have three adult children, and a dog. Check out his podcast, Reflections on Life and Liberty.

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