When I was visiting Coeur d’Alene a couple of weeks ago, a friend told me about an interesting development in this year’s elections: The creation of a new political action committee dedicated to “balance” in politics. I confess I don’t know much about the new group (I’m told it has a so-called progressive tilt), its directors or the candidates it is choosing to endorse, but the word “balance” in politics intrigues me greatly.
And annoys me. And I say this not to my friends in Kootenai County, but statewide. I know that the state’s Democrats have recently polled their members to see if there’s any love for a few potential “balance”-inspired taglines. It makes me wonder if balance is code for “hope and change.”
Besides, I’m not convinced that “balance” is a good governing strategy at all. Balance isn’t an outcome. It’s not a strategy. It doesn’t denote the practical application of what is being balanced: Who will win? Who will lose? And, ultimately, who gets to decide the difference?
And why is balance so great anyway? We utterly abandoned balance in 1776. We don’t much remember the individuals in the Continental Congress who worked tirelessly to balance out those “hot-headed” members who sought our separation from our monarchial masters an ocean away.
Balance for balance sake is mindless. Do we balance peace with war, honesty with lies, wealth with poverty? Sci-fi fans, anyone want to advocate Sith evilness as an obvious desirable antidote to Jedi goodness?
Voters don’t need balance; they need honest answers. The candidate or politician who says “I don’t have an agenda” should be considered with as much skepticism as the candidate who says “I’m just running in order to balance things out.” Does that mean you plan to be the opposite of whatever your co-governing officials are? How dumb. And likely, insincere. An elected official doesn’t just strive to be the opposite of whatever his or her peers happen to be. I have yet to see where that is the case.
As I travel the state, voters are itching for real leadership. They’re looking for candidates who have ideas, vision and interest in substantive issues. They’re looking for informed candidates who stand for something, not candidates who can be anything.
So to candidates for office, all I ask is that you say what you’re really all about: Why are you running? What do you believe? What do you want to accomplish and how will you accomplish it? Those are good questions to ask.
Personally, I want to elect people who believe in free markets, low taxes and low fees and who will fight for an elimination of the glut of regulations that have manifested in our state and nationally. And interestingly, most of the polling data I have read suggest an overwhelming majority of Idahoans agree with me, which makes me even more suspicious of politicians who steer clear of the rhetoric that I like to hear.
Other candidates may have a different objective. But candidates should be asked tough questions and be willing to give honest answers. If you think government needs to be bigger and can bring great things, at least have the courage to say it. Don’t hide your intentions under the brand of balance.