Notorious for his hard-nosed play on the field, the great Chase Utley had this to say about his quiet demeanor off of it: “My father always told me if you’re good, let other people tell you that you’re good.”
Easy to say when you’re ripping off one of the most productive stretches by a second basemen in baseball history, but a good lesson nonetheless. Many politicians would do well to learn from it. While the nature of their job demands some level of self-promotion, too often that transitions into decision-making for that very purpose. Responsible service to one’s constituents is usurped by social policy platforms based on self-congratulation. The bankrupt state of California provides three recent examples.
First, Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, on a new bill that would make California a de facto sanctuary state for illegal aliens:
Today’s vote signals to the nation that California cannot afford to be another Arizona.
As if it is the job of politicians to “signal to the nation” their supposed moral superiority, instead of serving as caretakers to their constituents’ safety and financial well-being. The dangerous incentives created by this bill are ignored, and instead we have the same self-congratulatory hooey that accompanied the naive presumptuous of California’s earlier attempt to “take the lead” on climate change.
Next we hear from state senator Mark Leno, regarding a bill that would allow for legal recognition of more than two parents:
The bill brings California into the 21st century, recognizing that there are more than ‘Ozzie and Harriet’ families today.
How cool and with it! Being concerned about family breakdown or people playing God is lame, so let’s go in the opposite direction of enshrining it into law. That way Mark Leno can pat himself on the back for helping California move on from the dark ages of the 20th century, back when its budget was balanced and its citizens were legal.
Finally, we have senate president Darrell Steinberg, on why the body should vote in favor of a $68 billion high-speed rail plan:
How many chances do we have to vote on something that will inject a colossal stimulus into today’s economy while looking into the future far beyond our days in this house? Do we have the ability to see beyond the challenges, the political point-scoring and controversies of today? Are we willing to take some short-term risk, knowing that the benefit to this great state will be, for centuries, enormous?
The flaws in this rallying cry are glaring. Bills should be approved on merit, not rarity. Opposing a boondoggle in a broke state is not political point-scoring, but what serious people are obligated to do. And if the benefit was obvious and known, then it wouldn’t be a risk, especially when it’s not your own money.
But all that aside, the most offensive element is the underlying appeal to grandiosity. Steinberg is essentially telling his colleagues, “This is your best chance to feel important.” Obamacare was also argued for based on the simple fact of its historic momentousness. Perhaps Mr. Steinberg is hoping that noted choo-choo train enthusiast Joe Biden will stop by to tell him this is “a big <doggone> deal”.
When we accept that a politician’s legacy should be his highest concern, the idea of public service gets turned on its head. As Thomas Sowell details in Vision of the Anointed, the progressive/liberal mindset scoffs at the idea of humility. The case for limited government, on the other hand, is based on it. And if you don’t agree with Chase Utley’s father on the importance of humility, then take the advice of another Father with a similar message:
Do not boast about tomorrow,
For you do not know what a day may bring forth.
Let another praise you, and not your own mouth;
A stranger, and not your own lips.