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22 April 2007

Politics

As my previous posts probably suggest, I am not very fond of politics. There was a time when I believed that things would be better if we could only vote in the right candidates, or pass the right bills, etc. But those days are gone, and now I have absolutely no faith in the political process. My opinion comes out of years of fighting for political causes - supporting certain candidates or legislations - and out of my experience as an intern at the Connecticut General Assembly.
Politics is a game. That may not seem like an innovative statement to anybody, yet people still follow it like any football, baseball, or basketball tournament only more seriously, as if life itself depended on the outcome. And in many ways it is like any of those sports, we follow our team, criticize the opponents, feel elated when we win and depressed when we lose. However, despite these analogies, we still believe that on the inside things are getting done that really matter - the world is being changed and life is getting better (or worse, depending on whose team is in the lead). It's a lie. What happens inside is more of a game than what's going on outside.
There's nothing inherently wrong with playing games; most of what we do as social critters is game playing in one form or another. The problem is that the purpose of the political game is not, as it seems, to solve social problems (whatever you happen to believe those problems are), but to vie for status within the system. The two are not mutually exclusive; occasionally gaining status involves solving some problem, but more often the one has little or nothing to do with the other. Status is gained in the political system by impressing your superiors, following the party agenda whether it makes sense or not, raising money, garnering votes, etc. Politicians who play the game properly get the benefit of the best appointments, higher ranking in the hierarchy, more pay and so on. Those who don't play the game sift down to the bottom and are eventually pushed out.
There may be some people who get into politics with good intentions, in fact, being the naive, trusting person that I am, I believe that most of them do. But the system is not arranged to allow good intentions to come to the fore. Let's say someone has a good idea for how to solve some pressing problem. They run for a political position based on that idea. If they win (which they probably won't if their whole campaign is based on a single idea) then the struggle is only beginning. Next they have to work their way up in the organization to a position where they'll be able to actually influence policy decisions. In order to do that they have to spend several years working in low power positions, following party doctrine, and cozying up to the bigwigs. By the time they reach some adequate position they will probably have become so caught up in the game that the original idea has fallen to the wayside. But let's just say for a moment that it doesn't, that this person holds on to their ideals through all of the bullshit. Now they're in a position where they can actually have some effect and they have their original idea ready to go, so they put it out and allow it to run its way through the system. Every person that puts their hand on that idea twists it just a little bit to serve their own agenda and out it comes completely digested and warped into a pile of useless paper and jargon.
If you want proof of my observations just ask any politician what they've accomplished in their service, and they'll rattle off a number of bills that they've supported or passed. Now go to a library or online and actually look up those bills, and you'll see that it's just a bunch of worthless shit.

2 comments:

Brendan said...

aside from violent revolution, what choice do we have but to put our faith in the political process? It may be slow and ponderous and for the most part pointless, but how else do things get done in a community as large as the united states, with all the differing opinions and perspectives we possess? I don't mean this as a challenge, but a serious question.
What are we supposed to do to create real change in a country of our size? secede?

Jeremy Trombley said...

That's a good question Brendan. The problem isn't that it's "slow, ponderous and for the most part pointless" the problem is that the political process as it is currently structured is flat out useless in my opinion. Things do not get done, problems are not solved, and so we put our faith in a system believing that things will change while we go on with our lives in the same old way. Faith in a broken system makes change impossible.
As for alternatives, i think the structure of the political system could be reformed so that it isn't so dependent on an hierarchical status and a few dominating personalities. The changes that would be needed might make it more slow and ponderous, but at least it would be effective.

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