It’s in the Gospel of Matthew where we find Jesus’ wise admonition that “No one can serve two masters.” Practical experience shows us that no matter how hard we try, it is always true—and it is especially true in politics.
Not a day goes by, it seems, in which I don’t hear a legislator tell me they must violate a pledge by doing one thing, or, more often, by not doing a thing they promised, because they “have to work with these people.” Those people, of course, being their fellow lawmakers. They don’t want to upset the apple cart. They don’t want to disrupt the congeniality of the process or risk being unpopular in city hall, the state legislature, or the federal Congress.
This means they want to serve the status quo of the establishment, rather than fight for their voters. Or, to use Jesus’ language, they have chosen which master they will serve.
For example, Texas’ regular legislative session runs for just 140 days out of every 730 days, and lawmakers are actively working with other lawmakers for even less time than that. Additionally, because of the geographic nature of district lines, none of the other members in their chamber can vote for their colleagues’ next re-election.
Yet for many in office, being loved and respected by their fellow politicians is more important than keeping the promises they made to their actual constituents – the people they serve. They have chosen their master.
Many politicians justify themselves by promising that inaction here, or a small compromise there, will gain them the ability to do good things in a future that never seems to arrive. They say that by being admired in their chamber, they can deliver on promises that keep being delayed.
Politicians cannot seek the approval of their voters and the approval of the political establishment. The tension of even trying will always result in citizens seeing their precious liberties sacrificed at the altar of contrived congeniality in the religion of self-promotion.
For our system of government to work, for liberty to be preserved, politicians must remember they are the citizens’ servants. We must expect them to serve the citizens first and only.
And we as the citizens must remember it as well.