John F. Kennedy, in his Pulitizer-Prize-winning book, "Profiles in Courage," gave three reasons why it is so difficult for elected officials to be courageous. First, all politicians want to be liked. Second, politicians want to get reelected. And third, interest groups exert enormous pressure on legislators to get their way. Ignoring all these factors is often difficult for lawmakers.
It certainly was in Annapolis over the past two weeks. A surprising number of legislators, especially from Baltimore County, caved in on all three counts and voted against a package of new taxes to keep state and local governments from running aground. It was more important for them to be popular, to get reelected and to please the anti-tax crowd than to speak out in favor of a balanced tax and spending-cut package.
Those elected to the General Assembly have an obligation to do what is best for the state of Maryland. That includes occasionally taking an unpopular stand, regardless of the personal political implications, for the good of the state and of the local jurisdictions. Enough lawmakers understood that obligation to support House Speaker R. Clayton Mitchell Tuesday night in approving, by a narrow margin, a big tax package. A majority of senators had also acted responsibly the week before in approving their own tax plan.