Some days I like to mentally rearrange all the thoughts in my head and put them on paper so that they make sense in the grand scheme of the confusing world. It’s like straightening out the utensil drawer of my brain. It can be very helpful. What follows for today’s post is a version of this. It’s a compilation of all the things that seem to come to me over and over as I read the various and sundry politics related news stories these days. You could say this is a kind of “open letter” for politicians although I doubt many would read and take to heart this unsolicited advice. They pay big money for advice, generally. They have gas-powered multi task machines, as it were, they have little need of my vegetable peelers and melon ballers I wager. Nevertheless, here is my advice to politicians-
1)Don’t tell lies.
Winston Churchill has said that “a lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on.” Politicians seem to bank on that these days. The truth is that propaganda and spin have always been a tactic for swaying public opinion. Before the United States was the United States, in fact, the founding fathers printed up propaganda to shore up their case to the public. They knew that without public support there was no way they could fight the British and survive. While I am not proposing that Thomas Paine’s “Common Sense” was filled with lies I will contend that it painted the picture of our state of affairs in a certain light. Clearly, along with other writings of its time, it was effective enough to muster public opinion.
These days we have both an advantage and a disadvantage in the glut of information available to us. We have pages and pages of new outlets and fact checking websites, all with different funding sources, affiliations and slants. If we’re diligent and if we don’t give in to the “raging fervor” of the latest 7 word sound bite we can unweave the truth from the spin. The lie you tell, Mr or Ms Politician will be found out. It may take time but it will come to light so do us all a favor and hire fact checkers for your fact checkers and tell the truth.
When my kids argue it’s inevitable that they got off topic and someone pulls out the old “well YOU broke mom’s vase that one time.” I know that you feel it behooves you to tell we voters all of the unseemly things your opponent has done but to be honest, Mr or Ms Politician, when we’re struggling with paying our mortgages and raising our children without poisoning them with poor food choices or bad cultural norms you’re really only pandering to your own side of the fence. Stop fertilizing your own grass over there. We can smell it way over here. I’ll admit there is a time and a place to inform the public of inconsistencies, scandals and unsavory character traits it generally falls flat when used as a “response” to a completely different topic. Unless you have NEW, RELEVANT, TRUE information that would help us to make an informed choice and that is not simply a talking point or apropos of nothing, then keep it to yourself.
3)Have your own plan.
This one is easy, it really is. Picture it this way. People wash up on a shore from a shipwreck. One man, who has been there for four years has built a village and invited the people to live in it. One person from the wreck who wants to be in charge goes forward and starts tearing down the village to prove how unsafe it would be to the people. When he’s done the people on the beach look around and as a storm approaches they all realize they have nowhere to go. Instead of focusing on tearing down what your opponent is doing, why not just build us another freaking village first? Show, don’t tell. Have your own plan, back it up with research and facts. Take some of the money you are spending on “spin” and invest in some great advisors, planners and research folks. Build something.
4)Know your constituency.
The best example of this I can muster is this one- the big news about the ACA ruling has spurred a series of state’s governors saying they will not implement the law when the time comes. This is all fine and good so long as the people in your state don’t suffer while you stand on “principle.” Those people, if they suffer, no matter what their political affiliation WILL vote you out of office when the time comes if you screw with them. It happens, all the time. What people in this country forget easily is that the power of this republic is with the people, not with the politicians. You work for us, we do not offer homage, taxes or fealty to you. We pledge our support of the system of government described by Abraham Lincoln so eloquently-
of the people
by the people
for the people
We’re those people and no matter how you redraw districts or change voter ID laws or recount votes or shovel money into your campaign we always have the chance to throw you and your cronies out. You might bank on us forgetting this and given the anemic vote turn outs in years past it would make sense that you’d want to bank on it. The tide will turn though because it always does. Tides are like that. Remember too that Benjamin Franklin was right that the only certainties are death and taxes, you have no job security as a politician. Know your constituency, they are powerful.
5) Don’t be a jerk.
Even if you are a jerk in real life, give that up. Sometimes people will elect a jerk because they think that he or she will get the “job done” or “be a good leader” because they appear decisive. It does happen but for the most part, if you look at the candidates who have won the highest office in the land in years past they tend to not come off as jerks. I’m not a fan of many of the Republican presidents I’ve seen elected in my lifetime but even while they were in office I can say I didn’t think they were jerks. Be the best version of yourself, treat people kindly, be a good listener, get your facts right, have a plan and don’t be a jerk about it. That’s all we’re asking.
There is so much more advice I could give to your unasked questions, dear Politicians but I’m not so sure that appealing to you to be better people is really going to make much of a difference frankly. It could be that the political machine is simply too strong to give us another “Mr Smith Goes to Washington” kind of scenario. Maybe my next open letter ought to be Advice for Voters…