The Instigator
SenorSwanky
Pro (for)
Losing
1 Points
The Contender
RoyLatham
Con (against)
Winning
24 Points

Politiians Should Be Neutral

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 7/2/2011 Category: Politics
Updated: 6 years ago Status: Voting Period
Viewed: 1,688 times Debate No: 17370
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (10)
Votes (6)

 

SenorSwanky

Pro

Politicians should be as neutral as possible and not have strong opinions one way or the other. Instead their opinions should be given to them by voters. Politicians are representatives of the people and as a representative you should do what your constituents tell you to do. Political surveys can direct a politicians view point. Any politician with a strong personal opinion should not be elected. Take for example the case of the Iraq War. Some politicians voted for it and now are arguing against it, the for it again. Based on what? Are they representing their constituents views or their own?
RoyLatham

Con

Welcome to debate.org. The topic is a good one, The issue of the merits of pure democracy versus those of a constitutional republic has endured for centuries.

There are two main reasons why politicians should not have only opinions given to them by voters. The first is that fundamental rights must take precedence over voter opinion, In the United States fundamental rights include the rights guaranteed by the Constitution, The second reason is that politicians have an obligation to study issues carefully and to provide insights and leadership. Voters often enough have conflicting opinions that can only be resolved by elected representatives. For example, voters uniformly favor expanding government benefits and almost never rollbacks. However, voters also want low taxes and balanced budgets. Workable solutions require compromises are a level of detail that precludes popular democracy.

1. Elected representatives should honor the Constitution

Someone defined democracy as "the right of the 51% to pee on the cornflakes of the 49%." he answer to the tyranny of the majority is the establishment of rights that over rule popular opinion. Jefferson asserted the superiority of rights over democracy:

"Nothing is unchangeable but the inherent and unalienable rights of man." http://www.searchquotes.com...

Other founders echoed the sentiment:

James Madison, Federalist Paper No. 10:In a pure democracy, "there is nothing to check the inducement to sacrifice the weaker party or the obnoxious individual."

At the 1787 Constitutional Convention, Edmund Randolph said, "... that in tracing these evils to their origin every man had found it in the turbulence and follies of democracy.

John Adams said, "Remember, democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself. There was never a democracy yet that did not commit suicide."

Chief Justice John Marshall observed, "Between a balanced republic and a democracy, the difference is like that between order and chaos."
http://www.americantraditions.org...

One of the specific dangers was summarized by an uncertain author. The quotation was embraced by the Founders:

A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the voters discover that they can vote themselves largess from the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidates promising the most benefits from the public treasury with the result that a democracy always collapses over loose fiscal policy, always followed by a dictatorship. The average age of the world's greatest civilizations has been 200 years. These nations have progressed through this sequence: "From bondage to spiritual faith; From spiritual faith to great courage; From courage to liberty; From liberty to abundance; From abundance to selfishness; From selfishness to apathy; From apathy to dependence; From dependence back into bondage." [ibid]

This explains why the Constitution is written so as to frustrate democracy by incorporating (1) the separation of powers among three branches of government, (2) a Bill of Rights, (3) enumeration of government powers, (4) an electoral college, and (5) a Senate not apportioned by population.

The resolution claims that elected representatives should oppose the Constitutional safeguards against the tyranny of the majority by always favoring their constituents opinions, no matter what the Constitution requires.

2. Voters are often inconsistent and unreasonable

I mentioned that voters consistently favor maintaining or increasing government benefits, while at he same time favoring lower taxes for the large majority.

The public wants Congress to keep its hands off entitlements such as Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, a Bloomberg National Poll shows. They oppose cuts in most other major domestic programs and defense. They want to maintain subsidies for farmers and tax breaks like the mortgage-interest deduction. And they’re against an increase in the gasoline tax.
... While they say they strongly support balancing the budget over the next 20 years, when offered a list of more than a dozen possible spending cuts or tax increases, majorities opposed every one of them except imposing a bigger burden on the rich.http://www.chron.com...


However, increasing taxes on the rich, actually the the top two tax brackets, would raise only about $115 billion of the roughly $1600 billion needed yearly to support all the current entitlements. http://money.cnn.com...

The only item in the Federal budget that a majority of voters want to cut is foreign aid. http://www.economist.com... Foreign aid is less than 1% of the Federal budget.

An elected representative following the opinions of his constituents would bring upon financial disaster in short order.

Edmund Burke, a British supporter of the American Revolution, spoke about representative government in 1774:

Certainly, Gentlemen, it ought to be the happiness and glory of a Representative, to live in the strictest union, the closest correspondence, and the most unreserved communication with his constituents. Their wishes ought to have great weight with him; their opinion high respect; their business unremitted attention. It is his duty to sacrifice his repose, his pleasures, his satisfactions, to theirs; and, above all, ever, and in all cases, to prefer their interest to his own. But, his unbiased opinion, his mature judgement, his enlightened conscience, he ought not to sacrifice to you; to any man, or to any sett of men living. These he does not derive from your pleasure; no, nor from the Law and the Constitution. They are a trust from Providence, for the abuse of which he is deeply answerable. Your Representative owes you, not his industry only, but his judgement; and he betrays, instead of serving you, if he sacrifices it to your opinion. http://www.tarn.org...

3. Political Flip-flops

Pro asks why politicians change their opinions. First of all, the voters change their opinions as well. Sentiment goes back and forth on such controversial issues as abortion and gay rights. So have politicians obeying the latest polls would not necessarily produce more stability.

Sometime politicians change their opinions to curry favor with current voter sentiment -- which the resolution advocates. Some politicians seem to even change positions depending upon what audience they are addressing, and that's scurrilous.

However, changing facts also affect the opinions of politicians and that's appropriate. For example, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid proclaimed at one point that the war in Iraq was lost. Someone who believed it was lost would logically favor withdrawal to cut losses. Now, however, few believe the war in Iraq is lost, so the interests of the United States are allied with continued support. I think it is fair to say that President Obama changed his stance on Iraq and Afghanistan based upon access to intelligence data. http://indistinctunion.wordpress.com...

Having politicians ignore the facts presented in Congressional hearings and instead rely upon opinion polls would not lead to better decisions.

-----------------------------

The popular will is often enough fickle and weighted to oppress minorities for the sake of the majority. Poliicians to listen to their constituents and do their best to reflect their just interests, but elected representitives should not merely reflect popular sentiment.

The resolution is negated.

Debate Round No. 1
SenorSwanky

Pro

Thank you RoyLatham for your response. I want to apologize for misspelling "Politicians" in the title.

1. I Am Not Arguing for a Pure Democracy
I want to clarify that I am not suggesting a pure democracy. I don't think those systems work either. A politically neutral candidate can exist within the context of a constitutional representative republic. I like the idea of electing politically neutral candidates to office, candidates that are more likely to follow voter sentiment than their own agenda.

2. Fundamental Rights are Not Negated Because a Politician is Neutral
Fundamental rights were created because these ideas were thought to be good for all people through all space and time. Having a neutral candidate does not mean these rights are going to be overturned. If the majority of people do not support the fundamental rights of the individual, we have a big crisis on our hands. But I don't think we are in danger of slipping back to a barbaric society because we elect neutral candidates that follow the will of the people.

3. The Constitution Still is the Governing Law
I'm less concerned about people accepting the Constitution and more concerned about politicians hijacking the current system. The Founding Fathers spoke about government not conducted by consent of the governed. They then started a revolution. The Constitution won't protect anyone if people become so dissatisfied they start overturning the very institution politicians were designated to uphold.

4. Minority Rule can be as Oppressive as Majority Rule
Oppression is oppression, does it matter the origin? One man oppressing his entire country is called a tyranny. What if the majority of people wanted women to vote prior to 1920? If you assume that the population was 50% men and 50% women back then, an argument can be made most people wanted women to vote. However, no politician took a survey of both voters and non-voters to find out. It can be argued that majority rule applied to certain issues might have lead to better results sooner.

5. Politicians Have an Obligation to Know the Issues
Agreed. They have to get elected and someone with lots of knowledge is more electable. But they don't have to take a side on any particular issue.

6. Politicians are Inconsistent and Unreasonable
I don't think inconsistent behavior and being unreasonable are traits that solely voters have, its a human trait. I argue that individuals (politicians or non politicos alike) are inconsistent and unreasonable, but a group opinion is more reliable, harder to change from pressure or bribery, has less conformity, individual bias can be removed and more stable over time.

7. Our elected Officials are Bringing on Financial Disaster, not Averting it.
Its arrogant to assume an elected politicians know more than the collective wisdom of the constituents. There are many more experts in finance outside of Washington DC than in Congress. How can one politician be an expert in all fields? The elected officials trying to figure out the financial crisis on their own have not fared well.

8. Changing your Mind is Human Nature
New information will change people's hearts and their minds. However, it will take a majority of people more time to change than an individual. Flip flops actually makes my case of a neutral candidate stronger.

I don't think our view points are incompatible. I just place more belief in a group opinion than an individuals. And I feel that is the system we in the U.S. have all signed up for, for better or for worse.
RoyLatham

Con

The resolution is unworkable

Under the resolution, elections would be pointless. Candidates could only affirm that the would never affirm any pre-conceived moral values and would never use any knowledge gained from Congressional hearings or any research by staff.


Congress people are called to vote on specific pieces of legislation. Just before the recess last week, Democrats submitted free trade treaties for Congressional approval. The treaties received Presidential endorsement, and Republicans generally favor free trade, but the some say the amendments are unacceptable. So how should a neutral Congress person vote? It's safe to say that not a hundredth of a percent of any Congressional district has an opinion on the matter. Few will ever have an opinion beyond what pundits or politicians say. So the it seems the proper vote is "present." A yea or a nay would not be neutral.

How about counting phone calls or e-mails from constituents? Only a very few voters make their opinion known, and those are almost always the products of campaigns by special interest groups. About half the legislation before Congress is agreed to by both Republicans and Democrats. That means it is boring and non controversial. Voters do not speak out on non-controversial issues, so there is no popular demand to vote on those issues. Lacking a majority of voters, a neutral Congress person must abstain from voting.

In practice, voters judge candidates on whether they generally agree with the office-seeker's principles and philosophy of governing If the politician fails to deliver, the voters may vote differently next time. The voters do not follow every treaty and bill before Congress and form an opinion.

The idea of neutral politicians is fundamentally unworkable.

1. Pure Democracy

Pro believes he is not arguing for a pure democracy, but what he is arguing for has all the problems of a pure democracy. Constitutional rights are not bright line issues. If the popular will is to undermine any Constitutional protection, or any right that is not in the Constitution, the resolution requires that the elected representative act to do so, if that's what the people want.

Burke said, “A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the voters discover that they can vote themselves largess from the public treasury.” Pro wants “candidates that are more likely to follow voter sentiment than their own agenda.” That is a proven path to disaster.


Pro has provided no evidence that candidates are likely to ignore the will of their constituents. Red states elect conservatives, blue states elect liberals. That's reflects popular sentiment. However, politicians have pressure to resolve logical inconsistencies, whereas popular opinion is free to case moonbeams and ignore real-world limitations.


2. Fundamental Rights


Pro says, “If the majority of people do not support the fundamental rights of the individual, we have a big crisis on our hands.” Separation of powers and representative government limits the potential for crisis by foiling mob rule.

However, to few limits on democracy has brought us to a crisis at hand. The people want unlimited government benefits, and there is no way to get the money to pay for them. The solution that the people want is to take all the money from rich people and redistribute it. As I showed, that does not come close to working as a fiscal solution, and it violates fundamental rights against persecuting a minority by stripping them of their property. The solution is to have fundamental guarantees on property rights.

The Constitution was not the product of popular opinion. It was constructed by people much more knowledgeable in the ways of government than the populace as a whole. The resolution suggests that people good at demagogy are also good at governing. Pro should provide evidence of that.


3. The Constitution


Pro says, “I'm less concerned about people accepting the Constitution and more concerned about politicians hijacking the current system.” I don't know what that means other than that Pro doesn't like politicians having opinions with which he disagrees.

4. Pro says "Minority Rule can be as Oppressive as Majority Rule"


Pro provides a false choice between tyranny of the majority and tyranny of a minority, The Constitutional system of elected representatives is the best approach to avoiding either extreme. The system is currently under stress mainly from unchecked executive branch authority, but the Congress also has a serious problem with attempting to cater to public desires for unlimited benefits. The best hope is that elected representatives will act responsible and not obey the irrational desires of voters.


5. Politicians “... don't have to take a side on any particular issue.”


How do they get elected without taking stands on issues? Elections are now the primary means for voters to express their opinion. Candidate A says “We can find a way for the government to provide everything the people want for free.” Candidate B says, “We need to be fiscally responsible.” The people always want both, which is impossible. In an election, people are forced to choose. How would it be done strictly by popular sentiment?


6. Politicians are Inconsistent and Unreasonable

Pro says, “I argue that ... a group opinion is more reliable, harder to change from pressure or bribery, has less conformity, individual bias can be removed and more stable over time.” Group opinion is the definition of conformity. Groups behave according to mob psychology. Passions overrule reason. If it were not so, we would not see politicians endlessly demagogic, as they are. The public will always want to believe that they can get more from government and not have to pay for it.


7. Pro says, "Our elected Officials are Bringing on Financial Disaster, not Averting it."


What exactly did politicians do to bring on financial crisis? They gave people exactly what they wanted: low interest rates to make housing "affordable." no-down-payment mortgages, lots of government subsidies and benefits. It was close to perfect democracy, with irrational mob psychology embraced by elected representatives. What we need is less democracy, not more.


8. Flip-flopping


Pro says, "However, it will take a majority of people more time to change than an individual. Flip flops actually makes my case of a neutral candidate stronger." Pro is claiming that if new information proves a policy to be wrong, it is better to keep on with the bad policy rather than fix it. Bad policies pursued with determination are then good? This is illogical. Bad policies should be corrected as soon as they are proven wrong.

==================

I believe our viewpoints are much further apart than Pro supposes. Individuals who would be rational as isolate individuals succumb to mob irrationality when empowered by unchecked democracy. Pro is really advocating elected representatives who have no role in checking the irrationality of popular desires to want everything for free, with someone else magically paying for it. That route is sure disaster. It is the classic mechanism by which democracies fail. We should be talking about new ways to increase rights, contrary to popular will.


I think Pro is on the side of the French Revolution, I am on the side of the America Revolution. The positions are classically drawn.


Certain groups in our society are now fair game to be stripped of rights for the "good" of the majority. Those include Conservatives, Libertarians, business owners, those who believe in meritocracy, people earning over $150K, traditional Christians, and pro-Americans.

The popular will should be checked. The resolution is negated.
Debate Round No. 2
SenorSwanky

Pro

Thank you for the response. I am going to solidify my arguement by citing the US Constitution, the document that representatives should honor.

People have the right to appeal to government in favor of or against policies that affect them or in which they feel strongly. This freedom includes the right to gather signatures in support of a cause and to lobby legislative bodies for or against legislation. This right is protected under the Right to Petition in the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. The Right to Petition does not get as much attention as the other First Amendment rights, but its important in my arguement.

Rather than having to petition a Congressman after they get elected, I suggest creating the petition up front. The petition of every issue can serve as the platform, and the neutral politician can carry out the will of the people.

I strongly believe that good ideas "win" over time and that bad ideas get rooted out. Its up to the smartest, best and the brightest in society to argue for good ideas, thereby changing people's minds. So if someone's ideas on how to balance the budget, set the tax rate and deal with homeownership are so great, that person should not be afraid to put them up for public scrutiny. A good arguement should sway people in favor of the good idea. Its the politician's job to simply carry forth the idea.

Thank you again for taking the time to respond to the debate.
RoyLatham

Con

Summary

Pro left every one of my arguments unanswered, effectively conceding the debate. The most important arguments are:

1. People always vote for more government benefits and lower taxes on themselves, and that spells doom.

2. Voters do not inform themselves on the detailed issues that make up the day-to-day business of government, so depending on public sentiment is not feasible. A neutral candidate could only vote "present" most of the time.

3. We should worry more about rights as a limit upon democracy rather than expanding democracy, because the majority always finds a rationale for exploiting the minority.

There were other arguments Pro did not refute, but I won't repeat them here.

Right to Petition

Pro introduces a new argument in this final round. (Debaters are not supposed to introduce new arguments in the final round, but Pro is new to the site and probably doesn't know that convention.) His argument is that a right to petition amounts to a mandate for direct democracy.

If the Constitution was mandating direct democracy, it would not have set up an elaborate system of government designed to foil democracy. The system includes Constitutional rights, three branches of government with checks and balances, a two-house legislature with a Senate not reflecting population, and an electoral college. The right to petition the government does not include a requirement for the government to comply with what the petition requires, It is solely a right of free speech, not a means o determining government action. Since it does not govern, Pro is incorrect in supposing it logically extends to a new mechanism of governing.

Pro also errs in supposing it would be practical to extend the mechanism. Most of the important issues before Congress are not known in enough detail to poll ahead of elections. Voters would have no opinion on most of the hundreds of pieces of legislation pending. Much of it cannot be parsed in any case. Recall Speaker Pelosi's admonition that health care must be passed before we know what's in it. We still don't know.

Pro supposes that the poll (or petition) results could become a platform for elections. Under the resolution, both candidate would have to vote according to the poll results, so there would still be no point n having an election. It would be direct democracy in every meaningful sense.

-------------------

I think this debate has been interesting. It addresses important questions: Why don't we have a true direct democracy? Should we try to move closer to direct democracy? The answers are that the founders knew the fatal flaw in direct democracy and set up a system to avoid it. Now, politicians are catering too much to the popular will to have the government provide everything at no cost to them. WE should move away from that through expansion of rights.

The resolution is negated.


Debate Round No. 3
10 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by SenorSwanky 6 years ago
SenorSwanky
The politician still plays a critical role in certain circumstances and for certain issues. If voters are undecided, or split 50/50, the politician will have to make the call.

Sounds like a push for a balanced budget amendment. Overspending occurs in many types of governmental systems, including the current one.

Yes, I would like to hear a spirited, two sided debate with experts about the pros and cons of the free trade agreement with Columbia. Maybe it would generate enough interest that people could form an opinion. Its better than staying ignorant of the issue.

Its not difficult to find most info online. Links can be set up to appropriate resources.
http://www.ustr.gov...
Posted by RoyLatham 6 years ago
RoyLatham
So on many issues, the results will be 95% not sure/no opinion, 2% opposed, 3% in favor.

Here's an important issue pending: Should the free trade agreement with Columbia be adopted as amended? I don't have an opinion. I generally favor free trade, but I don't know the details of how the treaty is written or what was attached to it two weeks ago. Do you? I'll bet there isn't one person in 10,000 who knows. That's completely typical.

Of course,everyone favor lowering taxes *and* raising government benefits. You don't even need to vote on those, they are so certain.
Posted by SenorSwanky 6 years ago
SenorSwanky
The party platform would be set by a scientific survey of all constituents, from the left, right and center. It ties into the concept of petition in that people would lend their support for or against an issue. A petition could be signed to move a new issue onto the survey, but the survey results will tell the 'neutral' politician how to vote.
Posted by RoyLatham 6 years ago
RoyLatham
The proposal on the linked site, as I understand it, is that a petition would be used, not a poll. Then "neutral" politicians would be required to obey the petition.
Posted by SenorSwanky 6 years ago
SenorSwanky
How were those people chosen? The key reason that some polls reflect public opinion accurately and other polls are unscientific junk is how people were chosen to be interviewed. In scientific polls, the pollster uses a specific statistical method for picking respondents. The method scientific pollsters use to pick interviewees relies on mathematics, it is called a random sample or a probability sample.

A vegetarian law would require the passage through Congress as well as a signature by the president. That's a lot of vegetable lovers.
Posted by RoyLatham 6 years ago
RoyLatham
It doesn't work because detailed polls are dominated by people with specific fervent interests. You'll get mandatory vegetarianism and a ban on abortion, but no substantial votes on foreign policy.
Posted by GMDebater 6 years ago
GMDebater
s/g: Mispelled words
Arguments: Con sucesfully negated the resolution
source: More updated sources from con
Posted by Sieben 6 years ago
Sieben
Misspelled title. Not even reading the debate.
Posted by seraine 6 years ago
seraine
Pro: Read the Myth of the Rational Voter.
6 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 6 records.
Vote Placed by jewgirl 5 years ago
jewgirl
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Reasons for voting decision: In the end of the day pro did not refute cons arguments very well.
Vote Placed by Double_R 6 years ago
Double_R
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Reasons for voting decision: Pro makes arguments with no regard for the consequences of his resolution, while Con effectively provides his own argument and refutes Pros case entirely. Pro also makes many contentions that should have been supported but provides no sources.
Vote Placed by baggins 6 years ago
baggins
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Reasons for voting decision: 5:1 to Con. Pro did put a very good fight in R2. It looks like he did not work for R3, making this decision inevitable.
Vote Placed by BlackVoid 6 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: Pro did not refute con's arguments.
Vote Placed by GMDebater 6 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: cmt
Vote Placed by Sieben 6 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: cmt