Monday, October 1, 2007

Political Problem 1

Even though I stop reading Bill Simmons during football season because he’s not so good at picking games (last season the Sports Gal’s total beat his) and because all of his articles turn into Patriot groveling--which isn’t so different from all the other sports serving his Boston obsession except that this Boston franchise is actually good so it’s pretty much unbearable.

One thing I like that Simmons does, however, is provide theories. What’s more fun is that they are well thought out and immediately applicable—in other words, they manage to avoid the annoying academic red tape that anyone who’s ever written a paper in college or high school dreads, that red tape that prohibits anyone from actually writing how they want to, in the tone they want to.

I hope, despite the lack of footnotes and established voices in the following theory, that my theory will nevertheless be accepted—or at least ingested, digested, and commented upon so that I can improve it.


Here’s what I think is one eternal issue with politics. Maybe this is the definitive, fundamental problem with American politics today. Maybe it’s logically fallacious and poorly articulated. You decide.

In any case, those who read the Collective will recognize it immediately. I’ve applied it to numerous contemporary political situations but haven’t devoted an entire post to it just yet.

Well here goes: there is a balance that must be achieved between gaining votes and implementing what we want in our society that often outweighs anyone’s ability or desire to get anything done.

Again. We have on the one hand justice, peace, truth. The things that every human values and would sacrifice to achieve. The key thing to remember is that these things to do not just simply appear in societies. They require sacrifice and commitment and perseverance and trouble.

You show me a perfect society, I’ll show you a graveyard.

On the other hand we have what allows the people who are in a position to implement justice, peace, truth, etc. to do what we want them to (which is, of course, implementing justice, peace, truth, etc.). This manna of power is often portrayed in such personality traits as charisma, such innate traits as creativity, and such traits that we can all work hard to achieve like rhetorical skill. However, the main source of these people’s power is the nation’s vote and the nation’s opinion. It’s their vote and monetary support that puts that him office, in position to influence official discourse.

In order to get our support, these people do the right thing: they remind us what it is that we want to implement in our society (notice that I am not getting into what formulations of justice, peace, truth, etc. it is that we all want, only that we all want some form of them). Then they tell us how, assuming we do give them our support (and thus give them power), they will be able to implement these things that we want to see.

(A side note: do not forget that the politicians also have issues in mind that they want personally, things that include a job, a legacy, and in most cases a wish to change the world for the better).

The trouble occurs as soon as they reach office, when they realize that there are hundreds of other people just like them, representing other people’s wants, and those wants often stand in the way of the wants that our politician had in mind.

In order to achieve the best possible balance of achieved wants, the politicians make compromises and deals, often through perfectly reasonable discussion and compassionate concern for each others’ constituencies’ wants.

But sometimes we have something we want so bad that we are willing to sacrifice other wants to achieve it. Sometimes we want something so bad that we are even willing to sacrifice our morals for it. So we begin to make deals and compromises that begin to overshadow some of the other wants of our constituencies, as well as our own personal wants. So now, speaking on behalf of politicians, we lose track of the original purpose of our vocations (which was originally to implement what it is that the people desire to see in their society).

We lose sight of that purpose for the sake of a single issue or a single group of issues, OR, perhaps, as we so often see, we lose sight of that original purpose for the sake of their own careers—we have to put the wants of the people on hold so that we can get reelected. This is not a malicious thought.

If I was a beneficent politician, who had made many improvements to society and the world as a whole, and my term was coming to an end, I would probably want to do my best to get reelected so that I could continue to help serving my society and the world, even if it meant putting a certain issue on hold.

The problem is when the politicians continually put what we want—what we voted them into office to achieve—on hold in favor of the methods needed to keep them in office. This is a huge problem with representatives, who have such a short term in office they have to begin canvassing for reelection almost immediately.


Politicians’ job is to implement what it is we the constituencies want to see changed in our society. They also have certain personal agendas to look after, many of which are completely acceptable and no different from a business person working to get promoted.

The problem occurs when constituencies’ desires butt heads and the politicians have to juggle their constituencies’ desires with their own agendas. It is easy for a politician to get lost in this mix, and the truly memorable ones are those that are able to get what they want without making dubious compromises.

Some day soon, I’ll try and show how exactly they do it.