ISSUE-147

Some people believe that in order to be effective, political leaders must yield to public opinion and abandon principle for the sake of compromise. Others believe that the most essential quality of an effective leader is the ability to remain consistently committed to particular principles and objectives.


Write a response in which you discuss which view more closely aligns with your own position and explain your reasoning for the position you take. In developing and supporting your position, you should address both of the views presented.


Should political leaders yield to public opinion and find a common ground even if that means abandoning one’s principle? From my perspective, although it is understandable from a theoretical point of view that political figures must listen to their constituents and compromise is a key component in modern politics, in practice an effective leader almost certainly needs to stick to a principle and most easily yield to the public opinion, which could be wrong sometimes.


In the first place, I fully understand why the notion that political leaders must yield to public voice could exist. In the context of modern western-style liberal democracy, government officials are elected by the people to act in people’s interest. Therefore, political leaders have an inherent responsibility to listen, or sometimes completely yield, to the opinion of the public. Furthermore, comprise is also a key ingredient in modern democracy, originating from the fact that a policy cannot work to everyone’s benefits. As a result, compromise must be struck in order to gain full support from the people. In other words, without necessary compromise, various stakeholders will not support a policy and a stalemate could ensue. A painfully fresh example is the recent shutdown of the United States federal government over a dispute between border security. In this case, the President and the Congress failed to reach a compromise, leading to the longest shutdown in American history. One can reasonably conclude that both parties in this case were not effective.


Theories aside, blindly bowing to public opinion brings potential dangers in at least three ways. First, while it is not often admitted, modern election system is meritocratic, meaning that people with expertise will hold important office to make more informed decisions for the public. If everything has to conform to the public opinion, the official then becomes a figurehead and there is no need to elect official in the first place. Second, political leaders can have more access to information than the ordinary people and thereby will be able to make better judgment. For example, in the United States government agencies like NSA, FBI, and CIA collect valuable information, most of the times classified, to better guide domestic and foreign policies. Such information is certainly off-limit to regular citizens, whose opinion, while entitled to be important, may unlikely be the best. Third, the public opinion can be easily swayed to a dangerous direction. Public opinion during the 2016 presidential election has proved to be influenced via political advertising, sometimes malicious, on the social network platforms. Furthermore, many psychological studies have revealed that when in a group, a person’s rational judgment will be impaired, making the group a powerful yet irrational machinery. In this case, yielding to public opinion can create more problems than it can solve, evidenced by the recent decision to leave the European Union by the United Kingdom.


Finally making compromise for the sake of reaching a deal also brings moral hazards. While it is true that a political leader must be able to strike a deal with the adversaries, it should not come at the cost of abandoning one’s principle. For example, can a political leader who cedes a land to the enemy for the sake of making peace be considered effective? I highly doubt so. Compromise should be a skill that a political figure must learn, but it is not a guarantee of any kind for being an effective leader. Therefore, I support the statement that political leaders must possess the ability to remain devoted to a principle or objective.


To summarize, although it is true that political leaders have the obligations for the people, they should not blindly yield to the public opinion. Furthermore, the ability to make a compromise to reach a deal is certainly desirable, but one should not abandon his or her principles in doing so. Otherwise the policy could bring very negative consequences to the nation and the people the political leaders serve.



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