How can we have so few visionary, courageous leaders running our state and national governments? The trend has been decidedly to put capons in the corner offices.
Let the people vote, Let the courts decide, and Heed the voice of the public are the chants of the cowards from the POTUS to governors to attorneys general to top guys at legislatures.
The trend is far strongest in the half of the states with ballot initiatives. Future posts here will deal with how these should be used and how they are usurped by destructive forces. Meanwhile, consider how in Massachusetts, Maine, California and other initiative-crazy states, narrow-interest groups want to strip such classes as gays and non-English speakers of civil rights that they themselves enjoy.
Also, initiative states are subject to binding votes designed to give specific industries or political groups tax breaks, advantage in future elections, and other perks. These tend to use dissembling or outright dishonest claims buried in long questions. These confuse the public and give the bad guys a chance at sneaking their tricks through.
So, our watchdogs in the executive and legislative branches will protect us and keep ballot initiatives as the citizen's check on bad laws, right? Negative grunt.
What we see are Governor Schwarzenegger, AG Tom Reilly, President G.W. Bush, and our Senate President Bobby Travaglini hiding. "Let the courts take care of it," whimper Arnie and Bobby. "Let the people decide," snicker Tom and Shrub.
What is sorely lacking are guts – to lead rather than to shun responsibility, to be ahead of the electorate and steer them where they need to go, and to have, hold and promote positions that better society, protect minorities, and extend rights to everyone.
It is ironic that the often denigrated Jimmy Carter may be our only living statesman, a leader with moral authority and conviction of purpose who can sway other heads of state to the right course. It is similarly a bitter joke that when Maine's Governor Baldacci and both houses of his legislature showed leadership by extending anti-discrimination protection based on sexual orientation, the initiative process will be used to try to slap them down.
Is the price of courage so dear? Is the lure of hiding behind ballot initiatives such a siren call that leaders become cowards? Has real leadership skipped these current generations? Are we so afraid of sharing our freedoms and comfort that we would let fellow citizens suffer?
Perhaps we could use a noble orator, a Patrick Henry..."I know not what course others make take, but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!"
Can you imagine Bush or Arnie or any of numerous other politicians taking a stand, even at the risk of losing office and the wealth that will follow after retirement from public service? Which of them would proclaim the ideals of the commonweal, where we ensure equal opportunities and fair treatment to all?
Far too many pragmatists and situational ethicists sit in power. Shower them with fame, adulation and wealth, but don't ever require that they try to lead where we should go.