With another presidential election season upon us, submitted for your approval is a guide to the strange, sick world of politics.
The first and most fundamental point is that politicians care about one thing only: Getting elected. The vast majority of them believe in nothing at all, but must portray a certain set of faux beliefs to get elected. It is possible that some of them may have actually believed in something when they started, but this soon erodes, as the desire to stay in power trumps all.
This strategy is generally effective since most of the electorate is too busy to focus on anything more than one issue, if even that many. And, a large segment of the voting public clings to the quaint notion that a particular man or woman will really solve their problems, somehow forgetting that this has never occurred in all of American history. Far too often, attachment to a given politician becomes a form of idolatry, as the followers are blinded to their hero’s manifold faults.
Consider the late Henry Hyde, who served in Congress for more than 30 years. He was known primarily for his pro-life views, and these were probably sincere. Sincere or not, they were enough to get him reelected again and again. Of course, a lone congressman can do little against an established Supreme Court precedent beyond holding up federal funding for certain abortions, and he did do this.
He also was one of the House managers during the Clinton impeachment, and this added to his “conservative” bona fides. Indeed, his hold on the electorate in his district was enough to overcome the lynch mob mentality of the Democrats, who successfully went after other impeachment sponsors.
But even a multi-term incumbent needs money, and Hyde got plenty of it from Sami Al-Arian, a convicted terrorist and front man for Islamic Jihad. There is no doubt that Hyde was in this guy’s pocket for years, as Hyde was against virtually every single domestic counter-terrorism measure ever proposed. More than that, he and his staff lied repeatedly about the donations as the truth was finally exposed.
While one cannot look into the man’s heart, as a Catholic, I find it quite difficult to understand how Hyde—always advertising his Catholicism—could draw so much succor from a Muslim like Al-Arian. Never mind how someone so cozy with an enemy of America could be considered a conservative. Yet he was, and he still is, as Hyde was favorably eulogized by nearly all conservative media outlets.
Thus, it is not only easy to fool the public, it’s easy to fool the supposedly expert interest groups. Or is it?
If the politicians believe in nothing, that goes double for most interest groups, whose only focus is to raise more money. They do it by trying to frighten prospective donors about some impending crisis, and may even tout a real accomplishment or two. If the money simply goes to secure election of a particular politician, then the charade has grown exponentially.
In the Hyde case, since he was painted as a conservative, why in the world should a conservative interest group (or Hannity or Limbaugh) go against that? Far more money to be raised by scaring us about Hillary Clinton.
If you need another example, consider John Kerry. Fresh from Vietnam with his medals, he briefly tried to run for state office as a war hero. Since that did not work in his district, he reinvented himself as a war protester. Then there was segregationist state senator Jimmy Carter, who reinvented himself as a civil rights populist.
Right now we have Mitt Romney, who when governor of Massachusetts was pro- gay rights, anti-gun and pro-abortion, now he has flip-flopped on at least those three issues. Tell me what HE believes in, please.
As to knowledge of the issues, since the politicians have to spend most of their time in photo opps, their knowledge is limited. In some cases, their staff are up on things, but only from the viewpoint of how to spin them to their advantage. The surest bet on finding someone knowledgeable? A lobbyist.
To demonstrate how ill-informed leaders can be, I can relate some very “inside” stuff (skipping key details, unfortunately) regarding a current issue, vital to a particular state, in which the governor wrote a strong letter to various senators, asking them to back off on certain proposed regulations.
I saw the letter, posted on the state’s website, and told my lobbyist friend that I was impressed. He had a hard time containing his amusement. It seems that someone else had written the letter for the governor, and that the governor’s understanding of this significant issue was absolutely negligible. Apparently, this particular state executive was elected based on image and a decent resume. By conventional wisdom, though, I should be thrilled since the governor in question is a Republican.
I’ll conclude by destroying one more silly myth for you. A common refrain of all politicians is that they can’t get anything done because of an entrenched unelected bureaucracy at the agencies. What a calumny that is! The bureaucrats simply do what they are told by the politicians, often while holding their noses. The fact is that the agencies employ many dedicated hardworking people, who are conveniently maligned by the political class.
There is only one way to stop this mess, and that is with term limits. Failing that, it will forever be politics as usual.