On Politics in General

“I suppose that’s why you shouldn’t discuss politics in mixed company,” Mrs. Bowman said.

“But there is one political discussion you can always have without risk of giving offense,” Mr. Magundi remarked. “We can always say that all politicians are venal liars, that they are all looking out only for themselves, that they don’t care about their constituents at all. You will get nothing but agreement from everyone in the room, whatever other political beliefs and fanaticisms may divide them. It is as neutral as saying that the weather is rainy today, or that the leaves are beginning to turn.

“And isn’t that a dreadful calamity? Why are we so thoroughly convinced that the representatives we have chosen for ourselves are bad choices? Aren’t we reflecting very poorly on our own performance at the voting booth? Why do we not automatically leap to the defense of the men and women we ourselves have elected? I myself will start the conversation: I believe that the city councilwoman from our district is industrious, intelligent, and incorruptible, and I will fight anyone who says otherwise.”

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2 thoughts on “On Politics in General

  1. Anyone who thinks politicians are corrupt, arrogant brainless twits should buy a condominium and attend a homeowners’ association meeting. They will come away convinced that politicians are noble and wise.

  2. “Hm,” mused Mr. Tannhauser. “Well, I shall say nothing against your councilwoman, of whose character I know nothing; but let me ask you this, on what basis do you deem her industrious, intelligent and incorruptible? If you can speak to these qualities from personal acquaintance, well and good. However, the vast majority of any given electorate will rarely have this opportunity, and not at all on any political level higher than the purely local, when candidates are groomed and prepped and spin-doctored to a fare-thee-well before ever getting within range of a town hall or questioning microphone. So there must be some other basis on which a politician’s character is assessed in that context.

    “I propose, consequently, that most electors assess a candidate’s character based on one of two factors. If he has held office before, he is assessed on the consistency between pre-election promises and post-election accomplishments, and as no politician ever won election by warning his voters (quite truthfully) that any or all of his intentions might well come to nothing due to factors outside his control, there will always be enough failures to be laid at his door to make him look corrupt or incompetent. If he has not held office before, he is assessed on the discrepancy between his pre-election promises and the incumbent’s accomplishments, which often produces even worse failure because a political novice will often sincerely promise what he does not realize cannot be accomplished, and the backlash against his failure will be all the more enraged for the sincerity into which his voters invested their hopes and dreams.

    “Thus, the belief in the universality of political venality becomes entrenched not only because it is the only common plausible human factor for this ongoing discrepancy between hope and result, but because it is the only potentially amenable one — one can always replace a corrupt politician, but it is far too much effort to tear down and rebuild a corrupted system.”

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