“Never be afraid to speak your mind, you have one for a reason.” – Anonymous
It’s Time to Finally Tell It Like It Is
As a term limited Louisiana lawmaker serving his last year in office, I have decided that it just might be safe to “tell it like it is” and not varnish the truth with political correctness. Although I’ve always tried to be frank with my political communications, I’ve also been very cautious because a politician’s greatest fear is the seemingly innocuous statement that later bites them on the posterior.
Let me start by saying that I’ve enjoyed my service in the legislature and was honored by the citizens of District 89 for allowing me to serve them for these years. I’m certainly going to miss serving them at the State Capitol as well as interacting with my fellow legislators.
“Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others.” – Winston Churchill
I’ve given a bit of thought about what is wrong with American politics. As we know, polls show a general distrust in elected leaders, increasing disillusionment of the American public in government and a continuing decline in electoral participation.
My observation is that the people who serve in government are not quite as “bad” as people think they are, but that government, including the people serving, is not nearly as “good” as it could be.
Let’s talk about the current state of America’s political system.
TODAY – Special interests have never been more powerful and actual voters more irrelevant. This is particularly the case on a federal level, and also in many states and localities.
A recent Supreme Court decision has effectively gutted campaign finance restrictions on a federal level and have allowed deep-pocketed super PACs to plunder elections, or more politely, disproportionately affect the outcome of elections. The amount of money that super PACs can serve up on a moment’s notice dwarfs anything that the average candidate can contribute themselves or raise on their own from friends, family and business associates. Consequently, candidates and later officeholders pay careful attention to these special interests and super PACS.
As I said earlier, the politicians themselves are not necessarily “bad” people, particularly when they start out. But politics can be quite addicting, with all the attention given to elected officials as well as their proximity to power. Consequently, the primary aim of most politicians is to get elected, climb the ladder and stay elected. Politicians certainly care about the constituents they govern, but generally when push comes to shove, politics will trump policy.
Unfortunately, the voters are actually the pawns of the system, who have to suffer through the endless barrage of slick and not so slick candidate media during elections. Political advertising is primarily designed to brainwash rather than to educate. Just like product marketers trying to find the sweet spot with consumers, political advertising specialists search for the best way to win the voter’s heart and, of course, their vote. Voters are flooded with flattering depictions linking the candidate to positive images and messages, which are often overly simplistic, with the goal of nailing that voter on a subliminal level. The opponent is usually tarred and feathered with negative images and harsh accusations, that are rarely entirely accurate, to persuade voters to dislike, distrust and, of course, vote against the opponent.
As a general rule, the candidate who spends the most money on such brainwashing techniques is coincidentally the one that wins. That is why the special interests and super PACs, which primarily fund the political battles, are so darn powerful.
The real problem is that when small groups have so much influence in running the country, you actually have an oligarchy as opposed to a democracy. In other words, a small group is actually running the country and not the majority of its citizens like it’s supposed to be. The special interests exert a disproportionate influence on the governing process.
Laws are crafted more around certain interests instead of providing the most benefit to the electorate as a whole. Elected leaders tend to avoid an open discussion of the issues or any attempt at consensus building, for fear of offending a special interest or having some candid statement blow up in their face. Given such a highly charged political atmosphere, governing itself is more about posturing then problem-solving, showmanship as opposed to actual solutions and one line slogans as opposed to intelligent and complete political discourse. It’s not the best system, particularly today, to solve pressing problems.
You may be thinking that this guy is coming on pretty strong and and that he sounds like your usual anti-establishment, sky is falling commentator. Can he provide actual examples? Well, I’m going to give you better than an example, an actual real time political system case study that I am part of, which is how Louisiana will tackle its biggest budget crisis in many years. At risk is the state’s higher education and healthcare system. Watch with me as this crisis unfolds and see if I am right or not.
Like I said earlier, I’m going to call it like I see it. I welcome your comments and questions.