Establishing healthy political views is like establishing a healthy diet; It’s not easy. It’s more expensive to eat healthy, a healthy diet requires a lot of reading and filtering; filtering out bad info from good, filtering out bad ingredients from good. It means more preparation and planning and a change in taste.
It was a lot easier to eat healthy a few hundred years ago, because there wasn’t much else to choose from. Fake foods were yet to be invented.
The same principle is true for politics in a democratic society. We have become addicted to a sugar-diet of policy politics built on policy promises. Despite the fact that politicians who win races on their policies seldom fulfill election promises we keep reaching for that idealism high we get from knowing we didn’t vote for the “other guy” with the "other policies". Whether or not our candidate has good character has become a vague after thought.
And so we are easily manipulated by spin and "dirt" dug up on the opposition is believed completely with very little objective thinking.
It's hardly a surprise that we have become so polarized politically, our high-fructose policy politics is the auto-immune disease of society.
Here's the issue: When we vote primarily on policy and election trail promises we tend to promote people who give believable excuses for not fulfilling promises they had no place making in the first place.
They tell us that it’s "the other side” who are to blame for them not fulfilling what they promised to do in their campaign. I don’t know about you but it seems to me that was always a possibility, right? That’s what makes a democracy work, right? So then why make a promise you cannot guarantee keeping?
The answers are simple, policy promises get votes because we are addicted to them and people of poor character make promises they cannot keep.
And so we promote people who are willing to sabotage the opposition, lawmakers who will routinely propose self-destructing bills with clauses the opposition could never agree to. Campaigns become negative instead of positive, we know far more about what candidates stand against, more about what offends them, than what they stand for. We know more about that they are not than what they are. Our votes end up being offense based, we don't vote people into office, we vote to keep the other person out.
This is a law of diminishing returns, as we can so clearly see by the choices we have.
When we vote primarily on policy and election trail promises we tend to promote people who give great excuses for not fulfilling promises they had no place making in the first place.
This is not just a politics problem, it's a society problem. The next time you’re watching an action movie, a series, or a rom-com make a note of every time a heroine or hero character says “I promise”. Then ask yourself if they have any business making that promise.
“I’ll be right, back, I promise.” He says as he jumps into the time vortex or the dinosaur enclosure.
“Dad and I will always be here for you, I promise.” She says to her daughter as she’s whisked away to the VIP helicopter leaving the White House under attack.
We have been trained to think that it is a noble thing to make a promise you have no way of ensuring. But it's not noble at all, it's pull of pride and arrogance, it is cruel and manipulative.
It's long past time we stopped promoting people who renege on promises they had no business making in the first place.
I'm not suggesting that we ignore policy, policy is, of course, important. But I do not believe it is as important as a candidate's character.
So how do we fix it? How do we get ourselves into a position of having better presidential candidates? It’s actually very simple, but not very easy.
Vote for people at the local and state level who don’t make campaign promises they have no way of keeping. Promote those who have developed integrity of character to the point that they can distinguish between promises they can keep and things they would like to do but cannot guarantee doing.
Promote those who have developed integrity of character to the point that they can distinguish between promises they can keep and things they would like to do but cannot guarantee doing.
Of course we can only do this if we, the voting public, raise ourselves to the same standard. We too must stop making promises we have no way of keeping; we too must distinguish between promises we can keep and those we can't guarantee.
It will take some decades, especially with our career based congress and given that the majority of the voting population needs to adopt this same voting ethic, but eventually we will have a selection of high calibre character candidates.
The added bonus is that, by then we will have changed the character of our nation. We will have weaned ourselves off highly processed politics and policy addiction. We will be harder to offend, harder to scare, and we will discover our courage again.