Calling all Statesmen

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Okay... Statespersons.

I have a respect for politics.  It takes ideas, persuasion, and consensus building to achieve results.  To limit politics to the political arena would be very short-sighted.  Whether working for a Fortune 500 company, working for a small business, serving on a Homeowners board, or serving on a Committee for a charitable task, politics is necessary to get things done and is observable to both participants and observers. 

I have, however, a disdain for politicians. Regardless of partisan leanings, it’s more or less expected that what we hear from a politician in making an argument is designed to convey an easy message, one that prompts “that sounds good” to the audience.  Listeners are not passive in this process, they prefer having governmental affairs dumbed down, as long as the message makes them feel good about it.  Politicians know this, stroking their constituencies and doting press members with catch phrases and bulleted points for easy consumption, proverbial billboards for passersby.  The issues du jour, when presented most effectively, are digested as easily as Soylent Green for the masses. It’s everything that they don’t tellYummy People Food the public that angers the few who take the time to pry into the details, where the devil can be found.

Politicians don’t just arrive on the scene; they’re molded over time.  At some point in a person’s life, an issue means enough to a person that they seek ways to improve, implement, or resolve it.  That issue motivates them to take action.  They care about it.  They may be successful, they may be forced to compromise, or they may fail, but their attachment to the issue itself warrants the time and energy put into it.  They remain grounded in what it is that is important to them.

Over time, though, these individual aspirations succumb to the weight of political power, itself.  Success in the political arena is not measured by the advancement of any particular issue but rather by the decisiveness and efficiency of the use of power.  Any specific issue likely begins with good intentions, but as it gets caught up in bigger words such as vision, change, and agenda, the issue is subservient to the greater perception of the political machine’s ability to implement it, or, more simply, the maintenance and increase of power. 

Today’s news has two articles that relate to this.  The first is from the Wall Street Journal, which is an opinion blog, but which points out that a liberal supporter of Obama’s Healthcare Plan recognizes that what is at stake has less to do with whatever good, happy feelings result from its implementation amongst the public, but more to do with political power. 

Regarding the Democrats, it says,

Why are they doing it? Because, according to Mr. Cassidy, ObamaCare serves the twin goals of "making the United States a more equitable country" and furthering the Democrats' "political calculus." In other words, the purpose is to further redistribute income by putting health care further under government control, and in the process making the middle class more dependent on government. As the party of government, Democrats will benefit over the long run.

Granted, the interpretation likely comes from a conservative thinker, but it’s not a difficult read from Mr. Cassidy’s quote.  Rather than poke at the potentially destructive consequences of behind what will, in any form, have huge impacts on the way we access our healthcare, I’m more interested in the motivations behind it, and not the “feel good” part.

Somewhere along the way, aspiring politicians (hopefully) began as well intended people, seeking to improve their State, town, school, etc. by their participation in the necessary power structures that exist.  Something mattered to them enough that they chose to become “public servants” to affect change.  This is the blessing we enjoy as a representative democracy.

Skip ahead some cycles of wins, losses, compromises, campaign promises, and indebtedness to supporters along the way, and the amateur becomes a professional, a professional that understands that for anything to get done, one must associate with others with which one may agree or (strongly) disagree but nevertheless support for future payback.  A loner has no power.

How early in the process can well intended people become corrupted?  A second article today speaks to that.  A parent advisory council, I would think, would exist for the sole purpose of helping their students succeed academically through… learning maybe?  But when the fundraisers are failing that support council endeavors, why not just sell test points to make money so that the council can better help the kids …learn?  Oh dear.

I’m sure comedians will have fun with that for a day.  Tomorrow will bring another opportunity.  But this is a good example of how easily an overall purpose can be sacrificed when success is measured by the ability to accomplish a task rather than by the legitimacy of the task itself.  The difference between a parent advisory council and politicians on the national stage is largely a matter of scale.  Certainly the latter may have more impressive talents, oratory skills, educational background or work experience, but this just makes the lack of substance more frustrating, if not insulting.

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