What happens when voters are looking for a consistent political philosophy in their leaders but cannot find one?
That is something that began nagging at me about a decade ago and still does today. Nothing about having a political philosophy and then applying it consistently across the board is easy. We all have expressed the feeling of “there ought to be a law against that.” Yet to pass such a law sometimes would be anathema to the very heart of how we believe government should operate.
For instance, last session the Florida Legislature passed a bill that was signed into law by the governor that limits the size of contributions to $3000 for political committees who are collecting petitions to place proposed constitutional amendments on the ballot. It was ruled unconstitutional by a conservative judge appointed by former President Trump. He cited a U.S. Supreme Court decision that concluded the First Amendment forbids limitations like those imposed by the law.
I believe limiting donations in our political system is a good thing. It would stop multi-billionaire donors from having outsized influence in the process. The McCain/Feingold federal law was a start. Yet, it was ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in Citizen’s United in a rather narrow part of the decision (5–4) related to some provisions and more broadly in other sections (7–2). Therefore, to pass a similar restriction on what the Florida law wants to do would clearly be unconstitutional.
Then why bother to pass legislation that you know will not pass muster. The Citizens United decision was cheered by the Republicans in the House and especially by McConnell and the Republicans in the Senate. Though that was tied to federal elections, Florida Republicans trying to limit funding for ballot initiatives should be considered inconsistent with what is a First Amendment right that they earlier championed.
The Democrats have inconsistencies also. They claim to be for the little guy yet in states that they control, they continue to pass legislation that prevents people from having the economic freedom to open and operate businesses. As someone who has owned numerous small businesses in New York, I will tell you that it is impossible to keep your business open and not flaunt some regulation or another with great regularity. Fines are a matter of course and they are embedded in the price paid by consumers. Some regulation is essential. Too much, and it becomes an impediment.
Another law just passed by the Florida Legislature is the home-based business bill that the governor signed into law. Most of businesses operate in a home environment exist now without any impact to neighborhoods. The new law now pre-empts local governments from regulating these activities.
So, while I believe that it is not necessary to restrict most business activity in a home, I also think this type of regulation is best left to local governments. I have heard the governor and our local legislators say they are in favor of local control. Then they consistently pre-empt the ability of local governments to exert it.
To see how the application of this law could have different impacts, look at the community differences between Stuart and Sewall’s Point. A home-based business in one would have no problem operating but would have different results in the other. While I agree with the philosophy of the state statute, my adherence to local control would make me think that the legislature should never be involved in these matters.
What I have developed is an overriding philosophy that government is best that is the closest to those it governs. Economically speaking, all government should stay out of markets except to make sure they are open to all. For example, businesses should receive no tax subsidies and have no special rules to keep ghost companies and industries functioning. In effect, government should provide for people and leave companies to fend for themselves.
I try to apply these principles across the board. Political expediency should not trump political philosophy. I want political parties to have bedrock principles that they will not push to the side just to win an election. We need to remember that political parties and politicians that are not true to certain bedrock beliefs are not there for their constituents but rather themselves. They are not leaders but actors playing the role of leaders. The nation deserves better than that.
When looking for the truth in anything, one should remember to consult The Bible & Shakespeare. In Hamlet, Shakespeare succinctly tells us what characteristic is important in our leaders; “This above all: to thine ownself be true. And it must follow, as the night the day, Thou canst not then be false to any man.” And from Matthew 16–26; “For what doth it profit a man, if he gain the whole world, and suffer the loss of his own soul? Or what exchange shall a man give for his soul?”
Tallahassee, Washington, and our own local elected officials must just have a few bedrock beliefs that they will not waiver from. A political party needs to write a consistent platform, and an individual elected official needs to have a consistent political philosophy that does not change when tested.