The Problem with Politicians

Is the problem with politicians that they can’t be trusted to deliver what they promise? Or is it that we will only vote for those who promise us what we want to hear? We want to hear promises to solve complex problems with simple solutions—panaceas not unlike the miracle cures for over-eating and obesity with no exercise or dieting required.

Each election we look for a savior who can deliver the impossibility of more benefits without raising taxes. Preferably someone new and different. A political virgin who is pure of heart, untainted by the mud, blood and scars of previously political battles. We suspend belief in gravity and the soul-less mathematics of the revenue and expense ledger in favor of the candidate who promises us that he or she can spin straw into gold.

We want to believe that if we vote for this new and improved leader, the deficit, like our extra poundage, can be vanquished without any unpleasant belt tightening. Foreign trade can be fixed by making other countries buy our products while we erect tariff barriers to keep theirs out. More military weaponry and social benefits will be provided with taxes paid by others. This perennial scenario is as unrealistic as getting good grades without studying or a raise without working.

Each election’s promises are broken one by one before our eyes because they were never realistic to begin with. Reality demands its due. 24/7 sports and happy talk TV shows divert our attention from the rot and dysfunction in our political system with its rigged voting districts and unneeded voter I.D. requirements designed solely to discourage voting.

But hope springs eternal.

Maybe the next election cycle will produce that all-knowing miracle President, that omnipotent Father/Mother figure who will rescue us from life as it is and return us to the warmth and security of the womb.

What if voters choose to look inward and ask themselves, what do I believe in? What kind of world do I want for my children and grandchildren? What if voters starting asking themselves, as President John F. Kennedy suggested we ask ourselves—what am I doing for my country? What am I doing for my community?

Maybe when we begin to demand of ourselves the kind of behavior we expect, the kind of integrity and honesty we teach our children, then perhaps we will be better equipped to choose candidates who help us face the problems we all need to face if there is any hope of solving them. Maybe we could start by voting against those whose political ads offer only juvenile name calling and character assassination. If we refused to listen to garbage talk radio and watch breathless “Breaking News” and buckled down to the hard work of taking citizenship and voting seriously. Maybe then we could get there.

Until we recognize that change starts with us, not them. Not much is going to change.