Politicians don’t get elected in a vacuum—actual people vote for them and do so in the hope that once elected, that they will do something for them and represent their interests. If my brand of politics, political party, or politicians isn’t represented in the halls of power, it hardly logically follows that the political system has failed ordinary people. Perhaps all it means is I am a fringe kind of guy and my views are not palatable enough for the mainstream to rise above the level of the fringes.
I have often wondered why the politicians I like and the political expressions that move me don’t seem to get any mass traction. I liked the idea of a US Labor Party, for example, yet for the past decade and a half it has existed it hasn’t really taken off like I thought it would. The masses just aren’t moved in great numbers into buying into the types of ideologies and organizations that are designed to get them to “fight the system.”
That is, until election time—that one time every some number of years when our political leaders turn to the citizenry and appeal to them for support. This is when peoples’ desires for politicians to be more responsive to their concerns suddenly come to the forefront of the national discussion. And this is the time you get professional politicians—stalwart guardians of the Establishment—take on the rhetoric and imagery of reformers and revolutionaries.
This is when you see the citizenry pinning their hopes and political desires to politicians who promise “change” and who promise to “fight the establishment” and represent the interests of the Little People.
Take a close look at how politicians craft their campaign communications. Most, if not all, will couch their appeals in terms of being a man or woman of just plain folks. Most won’t couch their appeals in terms of representing the interests of big corporations, lobbyists, the rich and the powerful. Yet between election years everyone knows and complains that politicians and the political system are in the pockets of the rich, the corporations, lobbyists, etc. How can that be with so many reformers elected into office?
This is why I am really not that excited about the 2008 Presidential race. Because no matter who wins, no one is really expecting anyone to fulfill their campaign promises to reform or fix what is wrong with the political system. I don’t doubt the sincerity of people like John McCain, Barack Obama and John Edwards who built their platforms on a populist appeal and anti-establishment sentiments. I just doubt their ability to carry out their campaign promises given the nature of the office they are running for.
The politics that will excite me doesn’t exist in the US in any large scale. It has nothing to do with electing people to office. It has everything to do with realizing the potential of ordinary people to participate in the system of democratic participation and to carry out a platform and agenda of advocating for their own interests. If this makes me a fringe type of guy, then so be it.
Cross-posted in An Ordinary Person