Politicians are at their most condescending when informing constituents that they “just don’t understand.” The comment inevitably comes when the constituent has expressed frustration that long-promised action on publicly popular legislation has yet to materialize.
With the Texas legislative session about to begin, you can expect to hear that sentiment with frustrating regularity.
The real problem isn’t that the citizenry doesn’t understand the legislative processes, it’s that citizens have come to understand all too well the lack of results.
Whenever politicians feel a growing criticism from the public, far too many lash out in exasperation with one of several versions of that “you don’t understand” temper tantrum. One of my least favorite is, “You didn’t attend the meetings at the Capitol where we hatched this idea so you cannot criticize it.”
Well, definitionally, 30 million Texans were not in those meetings. That does not, however, negate anyone’s right to speak out about the results of policies under which we must all live. The arrogance of suggesting otherwise arises from a fundamental misunderstanding of the roles of citizens and elected officials.
In our republican form of government, the citizens are allowed to miss every single millisecond of government hearings, and yet still reserve their sovereign rights to opine loudly and vigorously about the results.
To the politicians’ chagrin, that is the way our system was designed. Without exception, citizens are the masters in our republic; elected officials are the servants. The First Amendment was designed specifically for political speech critical of the ruling class.
The job of the citizen is to set the expectations. It is the job of the public servants to get the job done.
The details of the legislative process are interesting and sometimes informative, but in the end those details – and even the process itself – can serve as a distraction by crony politicians more interested in serving themselves than serving the citizenry.
When the servants start making excuses or imposing demands on the people in charge, it’s time to replace the servants.
It is up to the politicians to make sure their processes produce the results Texans want. It’s the politicians who just don’t seem to want to understand a very basic truth: the citizens don’t want excuses, they expect and deserve results.