The issues that come before our elected leaders are often complex and defy easy answers. Solutions that are put forward tend to be well short of perfect and should be subject to scrutiny, not just from the opposing party but also from within the party of the proposal’s sponsor.
But that’s not the way things are usually done these days in Congress or in the world of political activism and commentary. On the contrary, there’s tremendous pressure to stifle one’s independent judgment and follow the ideological herd.
Democrats are expected to toe the party line, and the same for Republicans. If anyone gets out of line, the result tends to produce either shock that anyone would do such a thing or condemnation that the individual would dare challenge the group-think imperative.
But independent thinking — whether it’s the criticism last spring by U.S. Sen. Max Baucus, a Democrat, of the Obama administration’s management of the national health care law, or the decision by U.S. Rep. Jeff Fortenberry, a Republican, to oppose a $40 billion reduction in food stamps — has benefits.
It causes people to stop and think. It spurs more thorough debate and — certainly at the Nebraska Legislature, if not in Congress — it can spur lawmakers to iron out a proposal’s shortcomings.
That’s the mark of legislative seriousness.