In the spirit of Lent, I have a confession to make. I, too, have taken one for the team.
For those of you who perhaps did not pay rapt attention during the twentieth Republican Presidential debate last evening, here’s a short recap. In answer to a question about his vote for No Child Left Behind, Santorum offered this explanation: “It was against the principles I believed in, but, you know, when you’re part of the team, sometimes you take one for the team, for the leader, and I made a mistake.”
Well, he’s right about one thing. Politics is a team sport. And sometimes, you are expected to take one for the team.
Which is how I came to vote for the bill that became known worldwide as the Saggy Pants bill.
In 2005, a freshman member of the Virginia House of Delegates introduced HB 1981, which amended Virginia’s indecent explosure law to fine anyone who exposes his “below-waist undergarments” in an offensive manner $50. It also classified this behavior, formerly only a sartorial faux pas, as a Class 1 misdemeanor.
I voted for it. And for exactly the same reason Sen. Santorum gave last night: it was presented as taking one for the team. (He was a freshman, it mattered in his district, blah blah blah.)
The bill was deservedly made a national laughingstock (actually, we even got blasted in the Oslo papers). It was quickly killed in the Senate.
Then I had to go home and explain this whole “taking one for the team” concept to my voters. Who didn’t buy it. They told me, forcefully, that they expected me to exercise my good judgment. Clearly, I hadn’t.
So in addition to taking one for the team, I also took one on the chin. (It later turned out that the patron of this particular bill felt that the whole team thing worked only one way. So that made it a lot easier to vote against his subsequent dumb ideas.)
Look, there are conversations to be had about No Child Left Behind. But as Sen. Santorum is discovering, even the strongest partisans of your own party like to think that the “team” for whom an elected official “takes one” should include the voters.