“Political Honesty”

To begin with, the term “political honesty” is an oxymoron, a complete contradiction in terms, and a practical impossibility in governing a nation as diverse as the United States.

Yet large numbers of people clamor for politicians and candidates who speak their mind simply and directly and stick to their guns, so to speak.

The problem with such “honesty” is that, because we live in a diverse and highly complex society, both socially and technologically, anything that most people think is simple and “honest” is so oversimplified that it’s inaccurate and anything but honest. And any politician or public figure who tries to give a more detailed and accurate depiction of matters can’t fit that within the sound-bite limitations of the media and the attention span of the majority of voters, all too many of whom distrust what they can’t understand and who seldom make the effort to understand anything not required in their everyday life.

Add to that the fact that the growth of lower-wage jobs that are physically tiring and often emotionally stultifying has built a culture of anger and resentment among those individuals who hold them and who more and more want simple and satisfying answers – except simple and satisfying is usually simplistic, misrepresentative, and inaccurate.

Then there is the fact that those who are fortunate enough to have higher-wage jobs find themselves being asked to do more and more as business after business strives to be leaner and meaner than the competition, which results in all too many of those higher-paid individuals also being time-stressed and forced to focus on their jobs and family [and sometimes not even family] in order to hang on to their jobs.

To this mix, add a generation of career politicians, for whom the first priority is keeping their office. Combine with a gerrymandered political system, and the result is that almost any politician who says anything his or her constituents don’t like is likely to get voted out in the next primary election, “primaried,” as it were. And since only a tiny percentage of Americans actually understand the issues in depth – or even want to – most voters really don’t like anyone, either an incumbent officeholder or a challenger, who tries to explain why “simple” won’t work.

A border wall won’t work. Neither will lowering income taxes further. Neither will turning federal lands back to the states [besides the fact that doing so is unconstitutional]. Neither will trying to deport eleven million “illegal” aliens. Neither will banning the teaching of evolution or absolutely banning abortions. Nor will free universal college educations [at least not without significant tax increases]. All of which means that almost all of the “simple and satisfying” solutions proposed by the “honest politicians” can’t be implemented and won’t work.

As the Founding Fathers designed, we have a government that requires cooperation and muddling through… and that’s another honest fact that few politicians want to admit… if they want to keep their jobs, anyway.

4 thoughts on ““Political Honesty””

  1. Wayne Kernochan says:

    You remind me of the last of the really more honest politicians, Frank Lausche of Ohio. When I was a Senatorial intern in ’71, Frank was a legend among the staffs for not suffering fools gladly, including those among his constituents. His letters responding to individual constituents that included phrases like “you idiot” and “do you have any brains” were refreshing because they really did describe some of the hairbrained letters (fed by some of the media) that every Senator received back then.

    But back then, no one except the constituents involved really cared about such things, and Ohio was a blue-collar state that kind of liked a little salt and pepper in its representatives.

    I also remember seeing Barney Frank in a televised “constituent meeting” where the question of “death panels” in Obamacare came up. Instead of being vague, Barney immediately brought out his copy of the law and read out the exact provision involved to show the questioner was wrong. But then, Barney had been “inoculated” by the fact that his constituents had already heard everything bad that his enemies said about him, and continued to re-elect him.

    As you say, rare examples of politicians who sometimes at least wont pander to their constituents’ thirst for “simple” solutions.

  2. D Archerd says:

    This thread calls to mind the famous quote from a European politician during the middle of the Euro crisis a few years ago: “We all know what needs to be done. What none of us can figure out is how to be re-elected once we do it.”

  3. Wine Guy says:

    One of the failings of the US system is that 1st term congressional and senatorial people have a very difficult time getting any real legislation through the process…

    … otherwise, I’d bet we’d have several candidates a year promising ‘one and out.’

  4. Joe says:

    A wall will just fragment wild animals’ territories and reduce their genetic diversity.

    We live schizophrenic lives: we want our corporations and military to continue destroying the livelihoods of people in other countries, and we want them to continue living in those countries. The “beautiful wall” is just another attempt to eat our cake and keep it.

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