We have been conditioned as citizens to treat politicians as our nation’s leaders. They are not; they are the people’s servants. Politicians are to “leadership” in our nation what the pimple-faced order-taker at a fast-food chain is to healthy nutrition. Only less so, because at least sometimes that order-taker actually does the work of bringing you a diet soft drink while you wait for your greasy burger and fries.
Of course, the politicians spend a lot of time and energy trying to convince you otherwise. They want you to think that by letting them set the policy agenda for you, they are doing you a favor. They tell you they have special insider knowledge about what is and is not feasible. Again, not dissimilar to that fast-food clerk who knows what things the cooks in the back really don’t want to mess with making that day.
In the case of the fast-food joint, customers settle for what is available, or leave if they cannot get what they want.
As the citizen-leaders of our republic, conservatives have been doing way too much “settling” for the low-bar results tepidly offered by our civic clerks.
Frankly, though, that is because we often treat government the way we treat lunchtime hunger as we drive past a fast-food joint. We enter with a vague notion that we’re hungry, while knowing nothing on the menu offered is actually that good for us, and then let the clerk direct us to paying for what they want us to have.
As we approach government, we must do so with steadier resolve. As citizens, we cannot let our republic’s fate be limited by what the politicians say they will – in their time – get around to doing. We must set higher standards for them, and demand loudly that they be achieved.
As an aside, the sovereign master of our republic, it is no more your responsibility to have a “plan” for implementing your ends than it is for you to know how to work the milkshake machine at the burger shack. The politicians run for office explicitly on the promise of solving the problems and producing the outcomes you desire. Let them do the work they’ve signed up to do, or replace them with someone who will.
What you do need to know, though, what is absolutely critical, is that you know what you expect and refuse to settle for anything less. Rally your friends and family to your cause, and then communicate those expectations loudly, clearly, and without wavering.
Effective citizenship starts with knowing what you expect, and then not letting up until it is accomplished.