I confess: I am a political junkie. I got my first taste in 1980 when Ronald Reagan won the White House. I was too young to know what he believed, but that didn’t stop me from staying up late to watch the results. I was probably the only third grader the next morning talking about exit polls at the cafeteria lunch table.

I suspect many of my friends did not vote for President Obama in 2008 and would not have voted for Nancy Pelosi if they lived in her district. Frankly, most of them are more likely to vote for Katy Perry in 2012 than to give the president a second term.

But my defense of the nation’s most powerful democrats isn’t about policy or ideology; it’s about passion and principles.

It hasn’t been that long since we had a president so consumed with polling that it defined how he led and where he vacationed. Like many before him, they move with the political winds to ensure another day and another term. So many across the spectrum lead by staff-drafted talking points, one wonders if they’re hardwired that way, unable to take a stand and defend it.

During the most recent midterm election cycle we saw a prominent senator switch political parties because he admitted publicly it was the only path to reelection. Whether democrat or republican, turning your back on the party whose checks you’ve cashed for decades doesn’t seem like passionate, principled leadership. It’s notable that this particular senator will be fishing during the next session of Congress.

Many members of the House of Representatives, sensing the likely tidal wave from one party to another, declined to seek reelection altogether. Better to retire on their terms, they reasoned, than to put their beliefs, their voting records and their principles on the ballot one more time. What a shame they were so afraid of being convicted for their convictions.

In order to win nominations, most democratic horses run to left to appeal to their base. Horses on the right do the same in the opposite direction. It’s a time-honored tradition.

If they’re lucky enough to become the nominee of their respective party, these horses suddenly gallop back to the middle and work long hours to become more palatable to middle America. After all, they’re the ones who typically determine who wins and loses national races.

It’s a dance that takes place every four years, and if you listen closely you can already hear the music playing for 2012.

Given the culture of leadership by polls and public opinion, it’s almost refreshing that the current president doesn’t give a hoot about public polls.

Whether you agree or disagree with the president’s health care overhaul, it’s law because he believed in and fought for it. He found enough to support among democrats, even in the face of an electorate who largely disagreed. Many of those democrats, including more than a dozen freshmen that spent just two years in the House, voted their conscience and are now back home polishing their resumes.

Political suicide? Yes. Worthy a dose of admiration for making a difficult vote that ended their career? I say yes.

Consider soon-to-be former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. You may not agree with her on policy, and polls suggest not many of us don’t, but that doesn’t stop her from fighting for the agenda she believes in.

History suggested that when the Speaker led her party to historic losses in the recent midterms, she would resign from party leadership and, perhaps, from the House itself.

She didn’t. She believes in what she believes, and until someone challenges her and sends her home, kudos to her for fighting and for unwaveringly representing the will of her constituents in San Francisco. You may not like her principles, but at least she is principled.

The same can be said for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. It might have been easier for Reid to back off the Obama/Pelosi agenda. But during the race the Harry Reid on the ballot was mostly the same Harry Reid voters in Nevada have known for years. Once again, you might not agree with his principles, but at least he has them.

To be clear, this is not an endorsement of these leaders or their positions. But in a day when politics is a nasty, personal business, where most politicians are driven by job security and polls, PR spin and staff pressure, here are three whose poll numbers aren’t high and who don’t seem to care.

At least they know what they know, and believe what they believe, and there’s something to be said for that.

Imagine a country of leaders who lead by conviction, where the debates are fair and honest, and where you never have to wonder what are elected officials believe.

Or for how long they’ll believe it.