Recently, the Michigan State Senate’s bill to raise fuel taxes to improve the roads passed by a 23 to 14 vote, in the lame duck session.
For those who do not know, a lame duck session is the time between the election and the beginning of the new state senate term. This is a time when the legislators generally vote on controversial legislation because some of them are retiring or leaving and the next elections are so far off that those remaining are willing to take risks.
This situation exposes two of the most fundamental flaws of our system: the ability of outgoing legislators to vote after the election and the need of legislators to play tricks to get important things done.
The first issue is how sad it is that politicians are willing to carry out such chicanery in order to be elected. Many deadlines are set to fall in this period, and a number of important pieces of legislation are not seriously considered until then. It shows that both sides can come together, they just need to be after the elections.
That is why I find it interesting that people always lament the lack of listening that our lawmakers do. The common refrain is that lawmakers simply do what they want and ignore the will of the people, and that is obviously wrong.
This is actually the larger problem: because of the absolutism in politics, lawmakers actually have to do this sort of thing to get laws passed. Regular people are such absolutists about politics that politicians cannot afford to make any deals. The public is responsible for this mess because of the incessant double-talking.
The public constantly complains about the lack of bipartisanship and compromise in our capitals, but they also punish politicians for exhibiting this trait.
The one example I constantly hear is about George H.W. Bush, when he ran on a pledge for “no new taxes.” Eventually, he decided to come to a compromise with congressional democrats that required a small tax increase. He lost his next election, and people continue using him as an example of a politician breaking his promises to voters.
The issue is that we demand these politicians make promises to us on just about everything, and then we hold them to these. While this is good on the surface, it becomes hard for politicians to work on anything.
Is there a solution? Yes.
The solution is to realize that all of these politicians are also people. They need to have some wiggle room to work with people to get things done.
They cannot afford to give you everything you want, even when they want to.