Sunday, November 4, 2012

Trust Politicians To Be Politicians

  Behold! A politically themed essay for election week. (I'd normally not write anything politically themed and risk exposing my ignorance, but a topic presented itself this past week.)
  You know who confuses me? People who become "disenchanted" or "disillusioned" with the American political system of representative democracy because of their increasing cynicism in politicians confuse me. They don't make sense. My economics teacher (who also teaches a government class which I am not in) likes to make it a big point that the primary goal of political parties and political candidates is to get elected to office and hold positions, not to help people or make a difference in issues or any such thing (answers he seems to consider idealistic hogwash and dismisses offhand). He seems to imply that because of this goal of members of our political establishments, we should lose faith in our governmental structure and believe it isn't functional anymore.
  Here's the thing. I accept completely that political parties and candidates just want to win office, which is proving to be true, and increasingly so; even those candidates who enter politics for idealistic reasons are forced to play the game so they can get reelected and make some marginal difference. (By the way, The Ides of March. Watch it. Good movie, and a scathing indictment of the political system that runs completely counter to everything I'm going to say here and validates it all at the same time.) What I disagree with is that this is any reason to lose faith in our political system.
  What people seem to fail to remember is that cynicism is built into our political system. Representative constitutional democracy, especially one with as many checks and balances built into the constitution as the United States of America has, is founded on the principle that if everyone does what's best for themselves, the government can do what does the most good for the people. The fact that some people also try to advocate the best position for those outside of their own group is an added bonus, certainly, but not inherently necessary for most issues, unless those groups are underrepresented in a way that means they do not get their voice heard. The United States of America is pretty good about getting everyone's voice heard on most issues, though.
  Our economics teacher brought up the example of Obama using the Hurricane Sandy disaster as a photo op with a woman (who wept with joy over the fact that the president came to see her personally) so close to Election Day. Maybe he IS exploiting a disaster, but the point is that he is doing good things regardless, he made someone happy regardless, whether his intentions are selfish or selfless.
  This, of course, brings up the important question of what you actually want in your political leaders; do you want them to be good and ethically admirable people or effective leaders? That's up to you, and, I guess, if we can't have both and you would forgo effective leaders for ethically admirable people, you have a right to be upset with the state this country is in. I, for one, expect my political leaders to be political leaders, ones who agree with my positions on issues and such. I'd much rather get moral satisfaction from other types of people, like friends or role models.

Follow the picture's link and read the mouseover text, and that's basically what representative democracy does for politicians.

- Adarsh Nednur

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1 comment:

  1. "He seems to imply that because of this goal of members of our political establishments, we should lose faith in our governmental structure and believe it isn't functional anymore."

    It never seemed to me like Clark ever believed this. Everything else though, spot on.