Robust, well-functioning and effective government has an implied duty of good faith on the part of its representatives and officials. It requires mutual respect, tolerance, a level of cooperation and a level of humility and humbleness that enables an elected official to actually listen and sincerely consider diverse points of view.
Though government officials of all stripes fail to adhere to the criteria set forth above, the Republican Party in particular, at both the state and national level, has been an egregious offender. Consider some recent examples:
* The Republican Party initiated a compromise with the Count My Vote citizen initiative (that looked certain to make the ballot), and passed legislation to enable a signature gathering path to the primary ballot, only to then litigate against the law they just passed based upon an allegation it was unconstitutional.
* Doing violence to the adage that “elections matter,” congressional Republicans refused to even consider, much less vote upon, President Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland for the Supreme Court. It was an egregious refutation of practice and custom. Just because you legally can do something that infuriates half the country doesn’t mean it’s sound leadership and good governing to do so.
* Mitt Romney in early 2016 made an emphatic speech decrying Donald Trump as a presidential candidate, and warned that a Trump presidency would be terrible for the country. Romney went on to describe Trump as a phony and a fraud. Today Romney professes a level of acceptance of Trump as president that is a monument to hypocrisy relative to Romney’s 2016 description of Trump. Romney’s current acceptance of Trump is unreconcilable with Romney’s description of Trump in 2016. Romney has abandoned his principles, his sincere and accurate beliefs and his dignity in a quest for election and acceptance in today’s Republican Party. His apparent conclusion that he must go along to get along is a disgrace.
* Republicans across the country (albeit thankfully not in Utah) have passed laws and enforced rules in the ostensible name of election security while really seeking to suppress the vote of minorities and the poor. It’s another example of being able to legally do something that’s nevertheless corrosive to the cooperation and good faith needed to actually govern.
The Wall Street Journal recently chronicled that many large private companies have come to the realization that the most effective and valuable managers in business are those that exhibit humility and humbleness. Subordinates respond very positively to bosses that really listen, and really consider other points of view, and who admit, at times, that they are wrong.
The most recent example of the Republican Party’s arrogance, its hubris, its lack of humility and humbleness are the pronouncements of Utah state Sen. Jacob Anderegg. In the event that Medicaid expansion (Proposition 3) passes, Anderegg intends to promptly seek to repeal what has just been passed by the citizens of Utah. Anderegg alleges that Utah can’t afford Medicaid expansion. What he really means is that in his view expanding health insurance for thousands more Utahns is not worth the expense and sacrifice that would be required from the rest of Utah’s citizens. Anderegg apparently believes that his views should trump the will of the citizens of Utah.
Mostly in the past, there have been prominent examples of the kind of respectful, tolerant, open-minded politicians that are needed to create effective government. Barry Goldwater, in the latter stages of his career, was such a person. Goldwater impressed, among others, Al Franken. Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan had deep respect on both sides of the aisle.
I believe today that Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., meets this criteria. Significantly, and not coincidentally, Flake is a Trump critic and is sadly retiring.
I didn’t personally know any of these politicians. I choose to call them statesmen because of the enlightened way they conducted themselves. I felt through knowing their public personas that they were, in a manner of speaking, friends of mine because of their constructive approach to governing.
To paraphrase a certain vice presidential debate: I know Flake, et al. They are/were friends of mine. Sen. Anderegg, you’re no statesman, and you’re certainly no friend of mine.
Eric Rumple, Sandy, has an MBA from the University of Chicago and is the author of the novel “Forgive Our Debts.”