Politics is to a good many people a game. Political operatives and officer holders often tout their ability to outwit their opponents in gamesmanship. Fair enough. Competition of ideas is what the American system of government is all about. Like the free market of business, the free market of political ideas supposedly allows people to spell out their ideas in the free political market and let the people decide which ideas are best to govern them.
That is the ideal. But, we have moved away from that ideal. Far too often, political operatives and office holders in both parties think of "the game" first, and the ideas and the people end up down the list. Far too many operatives want to have the reputation of winning at all costs that can gain them big money, and far too many office holders, from the President of the United States down to small town councils want to jockey to hold on to their power and perks. The increasingly higher costs of political campaigns, at all levels, feeds the gamesmanship. It creates a disgusting situation.
Highly paid political operatives tell elected officials what people want to hear to keep them in office. Lobbyists with special interests in mind line up campaign contributions to make sure that pet candidates for office have the money to pay the political operatives and craft slick campaigns to stay in office. Though there is often no direct connection, big businesses, labor unions and other interests that pay the lobbyists and write campaign checks often find their pet issues somehow championed by elected officials. The result is big government Republicans and big business Democrats, and a nation that has government at all levels being broken.
We simply cannot afford the gamesmanship anymore. We compete, at all levels of economic life, in a global economy. We can not compete in that global economy if we are hamstrung by the defacto corruption of political paybacks and gamesmanship. We need political office holders and activists who actually believe that they are public servants. Serving in public office ought to be something someone does to serve the people around them, not spend the public money to serve interests that will keep the public servant in power or enrich them later.
Indeed, we are far cry from our founding fathers. The men who signed the Declaration of Independence all ended up losing a good part of whatever fortunes that they had made in life. Thomas Jefferson, the author of the Declaration of Independence, Secretary of State, Vice President and President of the United States, died bankrupt. George Washington, the "Father" of our country, died owning Mount Vernon, but only because his wife got it from her family.
In today's politics, bloggers and activists would call those men fools. In today's politics, a politician often serves in office for a little while, has great perks in office, and then leaves office to take some consulting or lobbying job that makes them rich. Whether or not your kid has good teachers or you can pay your health insurance really never crosses their minds. They will give you lip service, but that lip service often comes from the carefully crafted "message" created by the political operatives. Indeed, far too many elected officials unofficially look at donor lists when a constituent calls looking for help.
That is the political system today. Republicans will talk conservative values and then work to have government make sure their supporters get theirs. Democrats talk social justice but line up to protect big unions against the interesting of the working man and woman. Even at the local level, far too many elected officials use their positions to get better jobs in the private sector or broker things like real estate deals.
It is a disgusting mess that has about bankrupted this country and state. The real problem is that we the people are to blame more than we want to admit. Sure, the politicos are by and large legally corrupt, but we let them be that way. We don't dig or probe who is trying to feather their own nest. Instead we worry about American Idol and sports and whether or not Taylor Swift is going to get married. When elections come around, politicians of both parties talk about our knee jerk biases to get our votes. Americans and South Carolinians will search out the best Christmas bargains, but seem to just ignore what is done with a third of their incomes with government.
We are in serious times. It is time we stopped not caring. Whether you are Republican, Democrat or Independent, it is time you demand your elected officials to be public servants, not people who spend government money and power to feather their own nests. If we are to awaken the American economic giant to compete in the global economy, we must not be distracted by the gamesmanship of those who wish us to look away from what is going on. We must have leaders who serve the people, not play games to make the people serve them.