This is a little like the Happiness Paradox in philosophy, isn’t it? It’s long been observed that when one strives directly to find happiness, one won’t. It’s only by working towards a few worthy goals — in business, family, the arts, politics, what-have-you — that one discovers that one is happy.
Same with getting re-elected. Yes, you can do things that seem directly to feed re-election, and those techniques often work. But how much better to stick to your principles, and do things for the common good, rather than buy off constituencies directly! This builds respect. Reputation. True honor.
Thus increasing one’s chance of being re-elected.
Even when you step down, say, because of your belief that terms should be limited, your own demonstrated honor accrues to your party, indirectly. It increases loyalty among the voters. And your party’s successor for your position, he or she is more likely to get re-elected.
But this lesson is lost to the current Republicans. They blew it. They must now spend at least two years in the wilderness. And they must hope that the Democrats don’t figure out that same Principle of Honor and build up enough good will amongst the voters to prevent their comeback.
It’s a pity that the principles the Democratic Party would be most likely to lurch towards are neither mine nor Friedman’s. So the Republicans, in putting off till the end of their reign the principles that justified their very existence (and which motivated voters to put them in charge in the first place), seem bigger fools yet.
So, as 2006 draws to a close, let’s join the Republican House’s deathbed conversion; let us honor Milton Friedman and his good advice. And, since we are practical people, we should be mindful of the advice just a bit more than the man, eh?
Honoring a man is one thing. But when that man stands for something good, the real honor is in standing beside the man’s principles.