A few weeks ago, in medium dudgeon over what I perceived as a too-too cavalier attitude towards stomping the guts out of Obamacare on the part of our senior senator, I fired off an email to that notable. My missive was terse, fact-based and perhaps just the tiniest bit disrespectful, pointing out that his vote to end the then-current effort to de-fund the Affordable (yeah, right) Care Act and “re-open” the government was ill-advised, timorous and seriously under-appreciated by this particular geezer.
I rarely trouble myself with contacting our guys (and gal) in Washington, primarily because they have evinced a singular lack of interest in hearing from me (or, apparently, from anyone else not associated with a major lobbying firm), but I made an exception in this case. I note here parenthetically that all five of our solons in the end supported this steaming pile of legislative detritus, though they all swear and affirm that they hate Obamacare the way Michelle hates a Big Gulp.
But I digress. Imagine my delight to receive, some weeks after the fact, a cookie-cutter reply to my email. It was thrilling to know that some low-level intern had actually taken a minute to print out form letter #A1296-G38Sub9, on real 12% rag bond stationery, with fancy letterhead, affix MJ’s totally indecipherable signature, stuff it in an envelope and frank it off to me. Zounds! I must really be somebody!
The reason, said epistle explained, that Mikey (and, presumably, the other four also) did not support the effort was because there was no guarantee of success. Huh?!!? In fact, let me quote the entire paragraph:
“I strongly oppose the health care law and have led or supported over 30 efforts to repeal, delay, or defund it. I led the successful effort to repeal the burdensome 1099 tax reporting provision and will continue to fight for change. However, I did not support the strategy of tying defunding Obamacare to the funding of our government because there was no pathway to the result being promised.”
No pathway to a promised result? Say what? Of course there’s no “pathway” if you decide, a priori, that the path doesn’t exist. Wasn’t the whole idea of the effort to create a “pathway?” Aarrgghh! Reasoning like this makes me bleed out of my ears.
So apparently, in order to gain this senator’s support, a legislative effort has to be assured of success before the vote! One wonders how he decided to support the above-mentioned “over 30 efforts”, and one further wonders what happened when they failed (as most of them did). Did he go back and change his vote? Did he file a formal protest that the other side wasn’t playing fair? Did he tear his hanky in two?
Here’s a thought experiment: what if Admiral Perry had looked out across Lake Erie on that fateful fall morning 100 years ago, noted several formidable British ships of the line, and remarked to his subordinates, “Naaah – I don’t like the odds … back to shore.” Might his message to his commander have then been “We have met the enemy … and he scared the pants off us!” Or imagine General Patton taking a look at the cordons of German troops encircling Bastogne in the winter of 1944 and deciding the chances of a successful rescue were too small – the entrapped American soldiers would just have to fend for themselves. Or, finally, what if Cassius Clay, after watching Sonny Liston go a few rounds, decided that immediate and enthusiastic retreat was the better part of valor?
Point is, senator, the worth of a cause is almost always utterly unrelated to the chances of successfully accomplishing it. Our Founders knew this when they pledged their “lives, fortunes and sacred honor” to a cause virtually no one then living held out much hope for. Albert Camus knew this when he noted that there are causes worth dying for. And most of us out here in the heartland know this because it is an indelible part of who we are. We don’t fight for principles because the contest is easy or fashionable, but because the cause is right. I recommend the same approach to you and your colleagues.