Monday, November 8, 2010

Governing decisions are not always easy

Bluffton Today

Like most of you, I am relieved that the elections are mostly complete. I am also gratified that the general outcome has increased the number of elected officials that agree in the main with my political worldview.

By all indications, we are looking to have government at all levels that is trending toward making itself smaller, more nimble, and, at least theoretically, more responsive to the will of the people. As an experienced elected official, I am aware that there is often some discrepancy between the language and activity of campaigning and the often grindingly difficult activity of governing.

Being a good politician as well as a decent person is to realize that, unlike the campaign, decisions in governing are rarely as simple and as well defined as we would like. Sometimes, there are no good choices. Is it better in a devastated economy to cut mental health services or education? Ideology is no guide, so you just do the best you can and hope you did the right thing. The clarity of this campaign season is about to become the irreducible complexity of legislating the greater good.

One of my ways of dealing with the complexity is to return to our foundational documents to help sort through these things. For getting to the point in the fewest words, there is no better document than the Declaration of Independence. There is language in the Declaration that talks about governments “deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.” That consent was not given in the 18th century so that it might remain in perpetuity. On the contrary, consent must be renewed and refreshed frequently and in response to the challenges of the day.

Last week, the governed refreshed their consent, as well as appointed the agents of their government. I am humbled and honored to again be your representative in the South Carolina House of Representatives.

Besides a new governor and several new constitutional officers, the Beaufort County Delegation has a new member in Andy Patrick, representing District 123 on Hilton Head Island. He joins your representative, our Sen. Tom Davis, and Rep. Shannon Erickson in standing for the bulk of Beaufort County. Our delegation also includes Reps. Kenneth Hodges and Curtis Brantley, as well as Sen. Clementa Pinckney in representing a small but significant portion of Beaufort County.

By most metrics, this delegation is something of a dream team. We have the experience, the mental horsepower and the creativity to be a force in the General Assembly, especially as we combine with the Coastal Caucus. This is particularly important going into a session where our budgets are still challenged by recession and halting and uneven recovery. While there are pockets of job growth and business expansion, such as we have talked about in Bluffton, the region and the state as a whole are still languishing. The very uneven nature of the recovery will create immense difficulty in pulling together a coherent budget that will recognize the varying degrees of need.

In closing, I want to thank you for your continued support and confidence. Almost 450 of you either called or e-mailed last week. For this, I am grateful as well. You help me demonstrate why they call it the House of Representatives.