Driving around the Valley the last few days, I couldnít help but notice the red, white, and blue election signs. Even though the election was yesterday, a few of those signs may still be seen leaning lazily in various yards around your neighborhood. Often the winners take theirs down immediately and store them safely away for the next election. The losers have no such motivation, and may take weeks to retrieve theirs, a sad reminder of their loss.
This election, though, I noticed something peculiar: none of the election signs identify the political party the candidate is running for. No ďDemocrat for Congress,Ē or ďRepublican for Place 12.Ē The party affiliation is conspicuously missing.
Itís as though they think that if they donít put the party affiliation on their sign, we wonít notice that they are politicians ó which is the last thing you want to be now days, particularly if youíre running for political office. Consequently, everyone running for political office is insisting that they are not politicians, and by implication, can be trusted more than the other guy. Letís examine that logic through the acumen of that most insightful of American political observers, Forest Gump.
If you remember your Forest, he said, ďStupid is as stupid does.Ē If we paraphrase him, we get: Politician is as politician does. In other words, someone who runs for political office is a politician. Thank you Forest for clearing that up. Apparently, politicians think voters canít figure that out ó which brings me to my thesis:
Donít Trust Politicians: Despite the implacable logic borrowed from Forest Gump, some people are having a problem with that. They elect a politician to national office. He lies through his teeth in every television ad, stump speech, and town hall meeting. He tells the Chamber of Commerce that heís for corporations then turns around and tells the AFL-CIO that heís in favor of the unions. He gets elected and passes a bill that puts money in his own pocket and we are all surprised. How could he betray our trust? In a word, if you trusted him, you hadnít figured it out. Politician equals liar. Liars lie. Ergo (Greek for Iím being all logical here so you have to believe me.) He will lie, and lie, and lie.
ďI am not a crook.Ē
ďI did not have sex with that woman.Ē
ďRead my lips, no new taxes.Ē
ďIíll close Guantanamo in one year.Ē
Are we seeing a pattern here? Some would blame the political parties. (Notice that Iíve been careful to find examples from both parties, not that it was difficult.) Others would blame the two-party system, the message of the Tea Party. Iíd counter that the only reason Tea Party candidates havenít lied to their constituents yet is that they havenít gotten into office yet. Historically, populist politicians donít have any better track record than the others. Take Huey Long, who I like to think about as the politicianís politician, or the liarís liar. He even developed a philosophy of graft that included categories for moral and immoral graft. Long was adept at making the majority of people think he was one of them instead of one of them.
As good as Huey was, he might have taken lessons from a recent ad that ran in Nevada. The ad encouraged Latino voters to stay home on November 2nd in order to show politicians that they werenít going to support them unless they stopped lying. Even though the producer of the ad insisted that it was aimed at all politicians, the ad mentioned Obama or Democrats five times. Republicans? Zero times. The ad did stray into bipartisan territory with the advice to ďsend a message to all politicians in Washingtion.Ē At that moment, however, the images shown were not those of Republicans, but of Latino Democrats. Huey Long, are you taking notes?
Of course, it doesnít take much to recognize that the adís ďDonít VoteĒ advice isnít aimed at sending a message to Washington, but to ensure that fewer Latinos, who usually vote Democrat two to one, donít show up at the poles. Which is why LULAC condemned the ad and Univision refused to run it.
Even though Iím not Latino, (and an independent,) the ad offends me, not because it is anti-Democrat, but because it is anti-democracy. Like so much of the politics (i.e. Lying) that goes on today, its purpose is not to enlarge the scope of democracy, but to suppress it. Democracy is based on the simplest of principles: if we all vote, weíll at least get the liar, er, representative we asked for. Partisan politics, however, isnít based on that simple democratic principle, but on the idea that the fewer people who participate, the more partisan politicians can get away with. (Stupid is as stupid does continues to provide insight, doesnít it?)
If you didnít vote yesterday because youíre waiting for a candidate who isnít a liar ó thatís what they were counting on. Voting is the only way we have to let them know weíre keeping an eye on them, which is the last thing they want.
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