Why I Could Never Go Into Politics

The reason is simple. You have to pretend all the time that you trust the American people and believe that they really are intelligent and paying attention. Well, yes, there are a lot of smart Americans, and there are a lot of dumb Americans. And the largest group of Americans just doesn’t pay attention to politics. That doesn’t mean they are smart about it. Virtually every economist and even every pundit (save for the ones on Fox and their ilk who are simply out to get ratings and destroy Obama any way possible) will tell you that a U.S. president has virtually no control over gas prices, as we live in a global market. And what little control we do have, Obama has tried to keep prices down. Domestic oil production is now higher than it ever was under Bush. That is one of those facts that will never penetrate the right wing bubble. And if anything, the drumbeat for war with Iran, led by the extremists on the right, has more to do with gas prices going up than anything Obama has done or could do. The drumbeat makes world markets nervous, and that leads to higher prices. Want to see oil prices really skyrocket? Then all we have to do is actually go to war with Iran.
I bring this up because Obama’s approval ratings had been steadily going up in recent months, until recently when everyone started freaking out about gas prices, helped by the echo chamber on the right that thinks they have found their voice. And now Obama’s approval ratings are going down, and everyone says that is due–and polls show this to be the case–to people thinking Obama has not handled gas prices well and they blame him for high gas prices. Of course they have no understanding of the issue; they can’t point to actual policy, and they have no ideas what he should do to lower gas prices. They simply know that gas prices are high, so they blame the president.
And that is part of why our politics is so goofy. People like or don’t like our presidents based on things they have little control over. And they ignore things that presidents actually do. And if you are a politician, you have to act like you really believe these people know what they’re talking about. It’s really a masterful piece of acting for those who can pull it off. I know I never could.
Of course our media doesn’t help. Virtually every Republican repeats as a mantra that they want to repeal Obamacare. So I ask you, when was the last time you heard someone in the media follow up with them and ask them to identify specifically what in Obamacare has hurt the country and needs to be repealed? Can’t think of when? That’s because they haven’t. Of course, the Democrats haven’t helped themselves much. When is the last time you heard a Democratic politician herald the good things that the Affordable Care Act has done (and there are many good things it has done). Well, they tout it more than the Republicans give specific reasons for wanting to repeal it, and they still seem to steer clear of it more than they embrace it.
My Illinois primary is a week from today. I just looked at my sample ballot. Virtually all of the 20 or so offices to vote for on it are people running unopposed. The several that were actual competitive races were for judges. And they get elected with very few votes, because most people leave those blank because they know nothing about the judges. I often leave them blank, and feel bad about it, but I won’t vote on a guess. I am reminded of the story of the Chicago judge who changed his last name so it sounded Irish, guaranteeing him reelection without a fight. That was perhaps at the same time the most cynical and the most honest view someone running for office has ever had towards the electorate. Sure, I exaggerate, but still.


About JP

We're two guys who met in college, in 1980. We've stayed in touch, and like to talk politics, current events, music and religion. JP is nore liberal than Sid, but not in every way. We figure that dialogue stimulates ideas, moderates perspective, and is in general friendly. These are things we need badly in these dangerous times. The blog name is taken from a song by Bruce Cockburn.
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