WASHINGTON – I just watched an intelligent political observer on TV who was saying that if and when the US Republican Party will feel the need to attract Black voters it will begin to fashion a political message that will appeal to them.
Politics as manipulation
I find this candid statement quite depressing. For sure it reflects the reality of contemporary politics. “You say conveniently fashioned nice things to those you want to sway. Whether or not you mean what you say is beside the point”.
But it also shows how the political process has become an exercise in cynical manipulation. Even worse, it also shows how this unprincipled way of conducting our politics is now accepted by all as normal.
This is how it works
In essence, this is how “the system” works:
“If we need your votes, we shall start proposing policies that will appeal to you. (They usually include goodies, that is some public money coming your way). So, you will get interested and hopefully you will vote for us.”
This is how it should work
The sad truth is that it should be exactly the other way around:
“We, political party X, truly believe in these principles that we articulate in this policy platform. We believe that the implementation of this agenda will benefit most, if not all, people in our society, irrespective of social class, race or gender. And therefore we seek the support of all voters, including your support.”
The goal is winning elections
But in reality it does not work this way. Here is how political candidates think and operate:
I am running for Congress. My objective is to win the elections. And therefore, with the support of opinion polls and focus groups, I try to understand what the different segments within my constituency really want. Once I have identified the segments whose support I really need in order to get to a majority that will get me elected, I fashion my message to them, so that it will get them interested.
This strategy may or may not work, in the end. The message was not well articulated, or the other guy’s message sounded better.
Still, I find it appalling that this “method” in which willful manipulation and insincerity are implicit, (if not overt at least in some cases), is now accepted as “the normal way” to conduct our politics in America.
Fiscal consequences of political promises
The obvious fiscal byproducts of this approach are chronic deficits and a colossal national debt. Indeed, as the name of the game is “buying votes” with promises of tangible favors, elected officials, once in office, have to deliver.
And they do so by doling out public funds to their supporters. And these come in the form of subsidies, exemptions, artfully created tax loopholes, social benefits and what not.
Issue debt to pay for campaign obligations
The net outcome of this “You vote for me, and I shall take care of you” approach is an astronomical national debt that keeps growing and growing. And why is that? Well, this is because you cannot squeeze more and more revenue from some taxpayers in order to dole out favors to your favorite constituencies. Lacking cash, you borrow money by issuing government IOUs. We call them Treasury Bonds.
Banking on the credibility gained by more frugal past policy-makers, we sell these bonds to institutions and people in America and around the world who still believe that the US Government, (unlike, say, Argentina), can be trusted. It will meet its debt obligations when due, no matter what.
Well, let’s hope so.
Corruption of our system
Still, in the meantime, irrespective of the risk of a future debt default caused by an ever-increasing national debt, our political culture has corrupted our institutions and the way the public looks at them.
For instance, a most recent national opinion poll indicates that only 7% of Americans trust their elected leaders in Congress. Yes, that is 7%.
And yet, these are the same people who vote for the same morally corrupt politicians who ask for their votes in return for favors.
Cynical politicians, equally cynical voters
And we here we come full circle. The politicians ask for your vote by promising more favors. You know what’s going on, but you vote for them anyhow, because you want the goodies they promise. And yet you despise these people who have corrupted the system by buying your vote with the promise of yet another free lunch. Isn’t it time to change your diet?