On the Most Thankless Job in America

There was a time when I considered a career in politics, but no longer.  It is, by far, without a doubt, the most thankless job in America, and the world.  Who praises politicians?  I do (in general) because I’m a politician apologist, but this is a club with fewer members than my other club, “The George W. Bush Fan Club.”  Ripping politicians (not necessarily limited to the opposing side) is a favorite pass time of every Amercian, yet I consider (most) politicians to be dedicated public servants who can earn anywhere from five to ten times more in the private sector.

These days, more than Democratic, liberal ideology, the general bashing of politicians frustrates me to no end.  Whenever I hear people whine about politicians, I always think, “It’s easier to be a Monday morning quarterback than a quarterback on the field.”  To some extent, I blame irresponsibility, selfishness and ignorance for the bashing.  For example:

1. Congressional approval rating is at a record low (somewhere in the teens), but ask a person whether he/she supports his/her own Congressman and the numbers are quite different.  My quick research found a rather old 2006 result, but the 30-point gap is consistent. with history.  In essence, then, your Congressman is good, but 434 others are bad.

2. People complain about “dirty politics,” yet people on the ground are worse than politicians.  Bill Maher insisted he suspected Sarah Palin’s youngest child was actually her daughter’s.   I had a conservative buddy who found nothing wrong with calling Barack Obama “Barack Hussein Obama,” thereby suggesting he is a Muslim.  Both are insinuations without a scintilla of evidence.  Faithfuls on both sides accuse the other side of “voter fraud” or “voter suppression” every election.  To term that a serious accusation is putting it mildly.  Voter suppression is a felony.  If you have evidence that it happened, you should be going to the Attorney’s General’s office, not to the press.  If you don’t, you should stop making accusations without any basis.

But there are other instances where it’s more lack of understanding and appreciation for the difficulty of the political process.  Consider:

1. Everybody wants the government to stop pork barrel spending, unless the money is coming to your district.  I’m not convinced this is an unreasonable attitude.  Certainly, I think the government needs to curb spending, but if I’m out of a job and one candidate is promising to bring federal dollars that may lead to my employment and other candidate is crusading against “fiscal irresponsibility in Washington,” I just may vote for the guy who may get me a job.

2.  Everybody wants a politician who doesn’t “lie” (presumably meaning “principled,” “keeps his promises,” or “doesn’t change his mind), but a politician is “dogmatic” or “insensitive to the voice of the people” when they stick to their guns.  Politician can’t both follow the voice of the people, which changes, and follow his/her principles, which shouldn’t.

3.  Related to 2 is:  politicians can’t change their mind (or else he would be a “liar”) but people can.  Off shore drilling is an excellent example of this.  When oil was at $13 a barrel, more than half of Americans opposed off shore drilling.  Now, more than half approve.  Politicians were left with one of two alternatives:  either become a liar by breaking a pledge to oppose off shore drilling or be insensitive to the plight of the American people suffering through sky-rocketing commuting costs.

4. Government wastes money, but people want it to pursue more important priorities than best price.  Simple example.  To get paper clips,  a private sector can go to Staples or Office Depot and look for the cheapest price.  Government entity has to make sure neither company discriminates based on race, gender, religion, etc.  Is that wrong?  Absolutely not.  Does that add cost and time?  You betcha.

5. People complain about money in politics, yet it costs money to run campaigns.  The cheapest campaigns are those in which there’s only one candidate running, and that’s not a real election.  Think about this:  An average Congressional district has about 650,000 people.  Assuming conservatively one third of them are eligible voters, a Congressional candidate needs to reach 200,000 people.  At 42 cents per mailing, that’s $84,000 just to send out, much less print, one campaign material.  That’s helluva lot of money.

6. People complain about “rich” politicians, yet most well-known politicians were not born reach.  Take the presidential nominees since 1960.  There were:  Kennedy, Nixon, Johnson, Goldwater, Humphrey; McGovern; Ford; Carter; Reagan; Mondale; Bush; Dukakis; Clinton; Dole; Gore; W. Bush; Kerry; McCain; Obama.  Of those, Kenndy, the two Bushes, Kerry, Gore and surprisingly, Ford and Carter were born into well-off families.  Others either were in poverty or struggled.  More recent examples include Tom Daschle and John Edwards.  Before complaining about how only the rich enter politics, why don’t you make something of yourself.

7. People complain about partisanship, but parties make politics work.  There are many ways to illustrate this point.

a)  America had a period without a political party once, the so-called “Era of Good Feelings” in the 1820s.  It was anything but.  It masked serious societal tensions and suppressed debate.  The modern two party system is the creation of Martin Van Buren, who realized, in part, it is important to have parties to foster dialogue.

b)  Highest voter turnout occurred when the strength of the political parties was at an apex, in the late 19th century and early 20th century.

c)  People don’t reward bipartisanship by their vote.  If Republicans were in power and the Democrats cooperated with Republicans on every bill, the Republicans get re-elected.  Why would people vote Democratic?  There’d be no difference between the parties and Republicans, in power, are getting the job done.

To an extent, I am blaming the people for whatever problem they think it exists in politics (quite frankly, I don’t think there are too many problems in the political system [not neccessarily policies]; I think people have no idea what they want).  But I’m also pointing out that there are inherent contradictions and tensions in a democratic republic, where free elections are held in small districts to choose leaders who represent us to govern a whole country, about which the people are either casually or willfully ignorant.

And I have no interest in entering a profession where you can help a lot of people, but people are too selfish or ignorant to appreciate your efforts.


5 Responses to “On the Most Thankless Job in America”

  1. 1 Joseph Lee November 23, 2008 at 3:52 am


  2. 2 joesas November 23, 2008 at 11:25 pm

    I’m glad someone agrees!

  1. 1 On Acceptance–So Long As It’s Acceptable « The World According to Joe Trackback on December 19, 2008 at 10:03 am
  2. 2 A Fond Farewell to Bush « The World According to Joe Trackback on January 19, 2009 at 11:59 am
  3. 3 Ladies and Gentlemen, This is Politics « The World According to Joe Trackback on February 18, 2009 at 9:21 am

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