Decency In Leadership


Santa Fe

The current financial setback has caused the governor to call a special session of our legislature, initially to reallocate spending to comply with our current financial shortfall. There are many complex issues at stake and the rush to control the complexities of a meaningful budget is without wisdom.

Thucydides was an Athenian historian and general. In his writings he noted that democracy needs leadership, but leadership is sometimes dangerous to democracy. The US and New Mexico are of course democratic-republics which function under a constitution and laws drawn by elected leaders. Those leaders are to uphold the constitutions as well as represent the betterment and will of the electorate. When they fail to do so and seek more control for themselves and their political agendas, they fulfill Thucydides postulate and become a danger to sound government.

In a rush to control, our governor has now added several more items to her agenda for the legislature to enact into law. Limiting police powers, requiring body cameras and altering the rules for absentee voting are among a few. Her additions are addressing multifaceted issues and are a kneejerk reaction to recent events. They need time for study and that means legislators need to do more than just read drafts of proposed legislation. The reason for the special session is budget adjustment, which has been studied in committees. Her last-minute additions disrespect the legislative process, the legislative members, the purpose of committees and the people she represents. This includes the police agencies who need a seat at the table. By attempting to use the COVID pandemic to force legislation in favor of mail-in voting violates procedures in our established election code which the Supreme Court has upheld.

Some leaders celebrate ruthlessness and reject decency in the conduct of governmental affairs. To them ruthlessness is imperative. LBJ is a good example of an arm-twister who forced through his legislative agenda, like his War on Poverty. Today, I believe we can say it was a failure which destroyed family units and failed to substantively help the intended. The legislative process should be softened by consideration and by decency.

Decency is an elusive notion. Some politicians feel it affirms weakness. In government today, self-righteousness thrives and justifies ruthlessness and self-celebration. It validates contempt for those of another party.

We do not make history as much as history makes us. Rushing to judgment and implementing kneejerk laws defeat the wisdom of study, which should be a part of the legislative process. Such reveals arrogance in leadership. Jefferson wrote in our Declaration of Independence that “a decent respect to the opinions of mankind” was required in forming a new government. Decency sounds weak. Jefferson knew it wasn’t.

Political ambitions have been used to justify the most horrific of crimes. Hitler and Stalin celebrated ruthlessness. Decency was not a consideration.

Perhaps it is ego that pushes decency aside. I am right and you are wrong and that settles it. I don’t like it when any politician chooses arrogance over decency and respect and that includes President Trump.

In this time of unrest, we do not need to be divided more than we are. Our governor and her legislative leadership need to heed the Jeffersonian wisdom of having a decent respect for the opinions of all.