No phrase uttered by a politician is quite so disgusting as when they condescendingly inform a constituent that the taxpayers “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 it with frustrating regularity.
The real problem isn’t that the citizenry doesn’t understand the legislative processes, it’s that we understand all too well the lack of policy results.
Whenever the ideas or results of politicians are criticized by the public, far too many elected officials will lash out with one of several versions of that “you don’t understand” cliche. 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.”
By definition, 28 million Texans were not in those meetings. That does not, however, negate anyone’s right to speak out about legislative proposals. The arrogance of suggesting otherwise arises from a fundamental misunderstanding of the roles of citizens and elected officials.
Indeed, if every Texan is expected to participate in every segment of the creation of every policy, then we absolutely do not need anyone in elected office!
The people are allowed to miss every single millisecond of the interim hearings and the legislative session, yet still opine loudly and vigorously about the results. What the politicians don’t understand, or simply refuse to acknowledge, is that this how our system works. It is the way it was designed.
Never forget: Citizens are the masters in our republic, and elected officials are the servants.
The citizenry – the masters – set the expectations and leave it to their servants (the elected officials) 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 often serve as a distraction by politicians more interested in serving themselves than serving the taxpayers.
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 need to understand a very basic truth: The citizens don’t want excuses, they expect results.