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Government by Campaign

The present Administration is making a concerted effort to change the face of governance in this era of image and information. These past few weeks of trying to push through a health-care reform package offer a study in the new approach to governing President Obama and his cohort have determined to pursue.

Essentially, we might call this government by campaign. The President pursues his agenda of policies and programs as if each one were an item to be elected by the people. He trots around the country speaking at town hall meetings, rallies, and invitation-only events, holds more press conferences than any president in history, and makes deals with every hesitating lawmaker in order to ensure that the votes he needs will be there when he wants them. This looks more like the run-up to a party convention than the serious business of managing the public weal.

In governing a nation, elected officials are bound by law, precedent, and the processes of legislative creation and review. This in itself can be a rather nasty business, as backroom bargains and sweetheart deals are often added to the task of vote-getting when more noble appeals, such as to the common weal, fail to do the job. Add to this the incessant campaign rhetoric - rife with cliches, anecdotes, hyperbole, and spin - that has become the stock-in-trade of this Administration, and all semblance of good governance becomes swallowed up in the imperative of getting what the President wants. Almost nothing is pressed on the basis of Constitutional necessity, sound reason, or even common sense. What matters most is accomplishing an agenda, striking while the iron is hot, while Democrats still hold a majority, in order to further and fasten the grip of government on the lives of its citizens.

But can this constant cajoling, badgering, and promising everything to the public make us a stronger nation? Or will it only wear us down, until we give away more of our liberties to elite cadres of lawmakers in our nation's capital? Campaign rhetoric is temporal, trivial, and, very often, truthless. Government control over our lives and liberties, by contrast, is difficult to roll back. If we yield to the campaigning approach to governance, we can be sure of this much: more politicians will be fanning out to fan the flames for whatever might be the next big thing, promising us the moon but leaving us only with fewer liberties.

If I thought President Obama spent as much time talking with God about his policies as he does stumping for them around the country, I might be willing to give them a closer look. As it stands, I don't believe the President is interested in governing. What the President wants, it seems to me, is to win, and winning is the work of campaigns. Serving is the work of governance.

T. M. Moore

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in Essex Junction, VT.
Books by T. M. Moore

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