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.

Different people hold different views regarding what makes an effective leader. For example, some believe that compromise is an essential quality, while others contend that steadfast adherence to principle is pivotal. Regardless of which view is accurate, neither viewpoint is sufficient to produce influential leaders.

If political leaders must yield to public opinion, then the leaders of all governments would be powerless. The failings of governments around the world would be impossible. Consider the popular uprisings in the Middle East. Since the fall of the Soviet Union, the Middle East has seen the rise of numerous dictatorships, most notably in Iran, Syria, and Saudi Arabia. These countries have stifled freedoms and democracy and have led the people to long for freedom. The leaders of these nations have not only failed to advance human rights in their countries, but they’ve also persecuted those who push for change. The dictators in Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Syria have employed military and paramilitary forces to suppress protests and have even used chemical weapons against their citizens. The regime in Iran has executed thousands of political prisoners, including innocent children. Saudi Arabia has fined, imprisoned, and even executed those who challenge the strict religious order, including women who have protested the ban on female driving. The Syrian government has imprisoned tens of thousands of its citizens and displaced millions more. The dictators of these countries have been able to survive, in part, because their citizens support their repressive policies. If their people did not support such policies, the dictators would cease to be effective.

If political leaders must yield to public opinion, then the public would be granted too much influence. When politicians surrender to popular belief, they effectively forfeit the power and influence of their offices. If politicians are too afraid to take a stand on an important issue, they cannot effectively advocate for the issues that matter to their constituents. For instance, in the United States, politicians are reluctant to vote for legislation that will raise taxes. Public opinion polls suggest that the majority of voters do not want their income taxes increased. However, the taxes must be raised since the government does not have enough money to meet its financial obligations. If politicians continue to yield to public opinion, the public will lose interest, and the prospects for resolving the deficit problem will diminish.

If political leaders must yield to public opinion, then democracy would be doomed. Democracy is based on the principle of majority rule. If politicians must yield to public opinion, then their votes would be meaningless. While democracies require a majority vote to pass laws, most citizens often reject laws that they disagree with. For instance, in the United States, in 2000, the people of Florida voted by a large majority to amend the state constitution to ban same-sex marriage. However, most states passed laws allowing same-sex marriage, and the U.S. Supreme Court declared the amendment unconstitutional. If politicians must yield to public opinion, then democracy would no longer work since it would not be possible for citizens to vote.

If political leaders must yield to public opinion, then the process of democracy would be highly inefficient. If citizens were allowed to vote only for laws that the majority supported, then the most urgent problems would go unaddressed. For instance, most citizens agreed that climate change was a severe problem, but only a tiny percentage were willing to pay higher income taxes to address the issue. As a result, the government would receive little support from its citizens. Furthermore, the elected officials would not require a contribution from individuals or corporations to help solve the problem. Thus, if political leaders must yield to public opinion, then democracy would be inefficient and ineffective.

If political leaders must yield to public opinion, they would constantly be pressured to pander to their constituents. If politicians must always yield to public opinion, they will never establish their principles. For example, suppose a politician is elected on opposing abortion but must compromise to remain in office. In that case, they will abandon their principles. If politicians must yield to public opinion, they will constantly fight for political office, undermining the fundamental concept of democracy.

If political leaders yielded to public opinion, they would have no incentive to enact legislation that is in the country’s best interest as a whole. Special interest groups would constantly pressure politicians to support legislation that benefits only a narrow segment of the population, such as farmers in Colorado. Politicians would also be pressured to support legislation that helps or harms a particular industry, such as mining and agriculture. These groups would provide money, votes, or both to politicians, and the politicians would be unwilling to oppose these groups or oppose legislation that will benefit them.

If political leaders yielded to public opinion, they would not remain committed to their principles or objectives. When politicians have to balance between their constituents and their principles, they will eventually compromise. Compromise, however, is a compromise between two directions. If a politician compromises their principles, they are no longer committed to them. Politicians who compromise their principles will abandon them when the goal of achieving those principles no longer justifies the adverse effect that compromise will have on their constituents. For instance, if politicians are elected on a platform of reducing taxes but must support tax increases to stay in office, they will abandon that platform. A politician who is willing to compromise their principles cannot be an effective leader.

The most effective leaders can remain committed to their principles. Because they are not swayed by pressure from their constituents or special interest groups or by the constraints of democracy, they can overcome obstacles to achieve what cannot be achieved in any other way.