Recently some Republican politicians have gone back to their respective areas of the country to pitch cost cutting measures that they believe will help the country get back on its financial feet. Unexpectedly, they've run into many protests or angry people at those meetings that are expressing their displeasure at the plan. This has sent some of them scrambling back to home base to try to refine the message to figure out what's gone wrong.

Last year the same type of thing happened when Democrats went back to their respective areas to discuss the passing of the health care bill. People were up in arms, to the point where those politicians couldn't even attempt to get their points across. It spawned drastic changes at the voting booths that led to a major change in leadership at the House level.

This begs the two part question I lead with. One, in both cases was it the leaders not getting control of their message before heading out into their communities, kind of smug, presenting either without really clarifying exactly what it was they were trying to do for the people of the country? Or two, was it the leaders misinterpreting why they were elected in the first place, taking something upon themselves as their belief in what they thought the people wanted?

We hear this word all the time about "mandate", as in politicians believing that just because they got elected the people are going to support whatever they come up with. Mandates aren't made by being elected by 60% or less of the population that was eligible to vote for you. And even if someone was elected by more than 60%, it doesn't mean that a politician was given license to do anything they wanted to do either.

Leaders have to make decisions that affect a lot of people. Sometimes it's not popular, but if it's the right thing to do then do it. However, the political area of business is not like traditional business models. If I'm a business owner and because of what's going on in my business I have to lay people off to survive, that's just something I have to do. If I'm a politician and I decide that I'm going to take something away that affects millions of people, or add something that's going to affect millions of people in some fashion, that's something that really has to be taken more seriously.

But it also comes down to interpreting what we, the people, are really asking for. Although I support universal health care, I'm not thinking that I supported electing President Obama with that as the major item. It never occurred to me that would be the crowning glory he'd be pushing for. The "mandate" he saw when being elected by 54% of the people was health care; the rest of us were probably thinking "economy".

By the same token, the freshmen congress folks that got elected by pretty slim margins in most places probably felt that they were "mandated" to come in and pretty much say "no" to everything, and then to start finding places to take things away from others with one goal in mind, that being to reduce spending and the deficit. If anyone had been paying attention to what's going on in the states they'd have realized that it's probably a better thing to tread water lightly and find small victories, even taking the chance on trying to work with someone else who might not fully agree with you but might partially agree with you (bipartisanship might be nice one of these days) to make progress.

Political leaders must learn that no one ever elects them to run our lives. We elect them to represent us in those things we find important. But if what we think is important and what they think is important aren't on the same line, there will be controversy and disagreement, and people doing more shouting than listening. When that happens, there will be no progress, only consternation on someone's side of things.