Posted by: cantmisssd | October 20, 2010

The policy is the principle

From the local to the national level, one of the perennial debates of the left is whether it’s right and proper to get down in the mud tactically (both during campaigns and while legislating). The argument tends to go that if one has to debase themselves to win an election or pass a law, it isn’t worth it. That the ends don’t justify the means.

Whether it’s arguing over filibuster reform in the Senate or the spending cap related to the Chargers stadium, what matters are the results achieved (for better or worse). There are a set of rules in place, and you can use them to your advantage or not, but it isn’t unethical to work within the system. There’s no separate section of legislative regulations that don’t count or that everyone’s agreed to just not recognize. This is the framework in which work is done, and we can pursue changing that framework from time to time, but there’s nothing dirty about participating in the system.

Because in politics, in governance, the ends are the means. Behavior in the electoral or legislative process is a degree removed. The “ends” are the impacts of laws. The “means” are the laws. How those laws are passed, how the people are elected who pass those laws- doesn’t enter in. How we elect lawmakers and how they then make laws are important and needs constant vigilance, but it doesn’t reach the level of actual laws and their impact.

People who want to win the “right way” presumably want to then do good things. If those good things need doing, that takes precedence over feeling good about the road to get there. Losing with honor won’t save any lives. It won’t feed the hungry, heal the sick. It won’t stop wars, it won’t achieve equality. Getting bogged down in the minutae of process misses the point on a forest/trees level.

In this case, the ends are the means, and the policy is the principle.

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