Jackson becomes the epicenter of Mississippi's political and economic future from January to April every year. For 12 weeks, the city's air gets a little warmer with the bluster, pontification and bombast wafting from the state Capitol.
This year, like last year, the balance of power will be with the Republican Party, with majorities in both houses and in the executive branch. Even many of the battles will be familiar: education, health care, immigration and so forth. Every issues has its facets; every facet its supporters; each supporter his or her party.
What's so often missing is the wellbeing of the folks paying the tab for that big three-month party on High Street: the citizens of Mississippi. It's easy to forget that real people will either benefit or be hurt by the decisions made on their behalf. U.S. Rep. Steven Palazzo of Mississippi's Gulf Coast forgot about people when he decided to vote no on a package of aid for the cities hit by Superstorm Sandy last October. Sixty-six of his Republican colleagues also voted no on the bill, but Palazzo seemed to forget the devastation Hurricane Katrina rained down on his hometown.
Politicians forget that education is not just about budgets and profits and test scores; it's about children and parents and strong, vibrant communities. Affordable health care isn't all about Barack Obama or Democrats, socialists, taxes or even insurance commissioners (lookin' at you, guv). It is about knowing that you and your family have access to a doctor when you need one and, more importantly, before you come down with a completely preventable, yet devastating illness.
When big money waves greenbacks around, it's easy to forget that economic prosperity isn't about special interests and your re-election campaign war chest. Economic growth must be about sufficiently healthy and educated workers making a sufficient wage that allows them to both feed their families and make meaningful contributions to society. Henry Ford knew that to be successful, he had to pay his workers enough money so that they could also be his customers. Work, in other words, has to pay enough to do it.
At the heart of every political decision, real people will be affected. No political ideology should ever take the place of doing what's best and right for the people--not to mention the state's economic strength. It's tough to look deeply into your own ideology and discover its flaws. It's even harder to admit when you're wrong and change your mind. But that's what strong-minded, big-hearted people do every day. Politics shouldn't be easy; it ought to be rewarding and meaningful.
As for "we the people," it's our job to keep those blustering, pontificating political animals at the Capitol--whom we pay--in check. Democracy is best when its participants are informed, thinking and demanding. Let's see to it that all of us do our parts well.