30 Mar Principle as the Basis for Political Actions and Issue Positions
Can you imagine a United States in which elected officials make decisions based solely on principles, and they govern pursuant to philosophies that will help all Americans? Principle Based Politics exists to make that image a reality. The aim is to bring attention to the need for our national leaders to put principles—the right principles—ahead of partisanship, tribalism, extremism, and other nefarious motives.
Enough of party leaders “whipping” members into party lines. Enough of seeming foremost concerned with one’s party attaining or maintaining power. Enough congressional bills on which all Republicans vote one way and all Democrats vote the other. Enough of wanting the other party’s President to fail. Enough.
And that is enough negativity. From this point forward, this forum will focus on positive principles, positive philosophies, and positive positions on issues of public policy.
Basing political actions on principles no doubt already occurs, to some extent. We need to build on that. Basing political actions on principles consistently is what our country needs. Only that will restore Americans’ confidence in our government. Principle-based politics will produce better laws, and it certainly will lead to a better law-making process. In short, adherence to principles will preserve
Sources of Principles
Ample sources reveal principles that apply to politics. The Declaration of Independence and its famous Preamble, which initiated our country, is full of them. The Constitution of the United States of America provides many more. Then there is the Bible, which has much to say about leadership, government, and the fundamental moral principles taught in both the Old and New Testaments. All of these sources have as much to say to us today as they did to their original readers.
Future blog posts will show how all of these sources support the fundamental principles on which Principle Based Politics stands.
How Exactly can Political Decisions and Conduct be Based on Principles?
The concept for which we advocate is really a process. Basing decisions and actions on principles involves a few simple steps:
Step 1: Identify the decision to be made or action to be taken
Step 2: Determine which principles could apply to the decision or action
Step 3: Consider which principles control most strongly
Step 4: Analyze the outcomes the principles require
Step 5: Decide or act in accordance with the analysis
This process can be followed in every aspect of the political spectrum, from the President of the United States to members of Congress, to party officials, to candidates, to the voting public, and even to the media who cover politics.
The leaders in the White House, the Senate, and the House of Representatives, obviously, have many political decisions to make and actions to take. They propose and vote on (or decide whether or not to veto) legislation. They decide what to investigate, which orders to issue, which administrative actions to take, and which law-making procedures to follow. There are principles that apply to and should control each of these decisions. Our purpose is to explore and extol those ideas.
Candidates for public office, too, are in politics, whether they are incumbents or challengers. They, too, each have a full repertoire of principles available to help them decide which campaign tactics to employ. Candidates can and should base their statements and promises on principles above all else.
The voting public? When we evaluate candidates, we can hold them to high, principled standards. We can refuse to vote for them if they fail to display principle during the campaign. Most importantly, we can refuse even to nominate them for the general election if they do not meet our standard of principle in their conduct. As a last resort, we can vote them out of office at the first opportunity after their lack of principle manifests itself. Simply knowing that the electorate will demand principle-based politics will cause candidates to supply it.
It is not too much to expect the media to demonstrate principles, too, in the stories they choose to cover, in how impartially they report the news, and with the attention they pay to the principles of the politicians.
Lastly, the federal government as an entity has its own array of principles. Those principles, set forth explicitly in the Constitution and other documents upon which our nation was founded, have guided our government since its inception and remain in place today. Principles provide instruction on how a government should treat its people, what topics the government should and—importantly—should not control, and what values to uphold through the laws enacted and enforced. These same principles can remind the federal government why it exists and how it has survived for nearly two and a half centuries.
Principles are fundamental. Basing political decisions and actions on principles is essential.
Written by Quentin R. Wittrock, founder of Principle Based Politics.
Look for his posts twice each week, as this blog will explore and promote the idea of principle in politics, both as to individual elected leaders and our federal government as an institution.