Politicians are not leaders.
This is not a disputable statement. Politicians are driven by public opinion, self interest, and those who fill the coffers with cash.
This is the challenge of democracy. Madison wrote “To suppose that any form of government will secure liberty or happiness without any virtue in the people is a chimerical idea.”
The problem is that government by the people and for the people is a dicey enterprise because it is dependent upon the values of the people. Living in a relativistic and self-serving moral climate leads to relativistic and self-serving politicians. They grow out of the soil of culture. And the ironic twist is that we get what we are. If you are expecting something different from politics then you simply don’t understand human nature. Madison hit the nail on the head. His comment is especially true of a representative form of government in a democracy.
We believe in pragmatism, individualism, and tolerance. Those three values mitigate against the government we want.
Pragmatism says that we pursue the expedient, that which works – not necessarily over the long haul. So like our personal lives, politicians make decisions which solve short term problems with the most satisfactory short term result (the hope of re-election or personal profit). Pragmatism says ANYTHING during an election cycle that will get the candidate elected.
Individualism says that we watch out for ourselves. Hook this together with pragmatism and the politician has the enormous challenge of finding solutions that serve the public good hidden like the proverbial needle in the haystack of his own moral confusion. Politicians look out for their own best interests because politics has become a career, a competition and an investment in their future.
Tolerance says that every view, voice or expression is equally valid. It is the crowning achievement of relativism. It has crept into our culture in weird expressions. In youth sports we put up with the contradictory categories of losers being winners. “Everyone wins” becomes the motto as we foolishly hand out trophies to the last place team. Our collective voice mumbles silently, “if everyone wins then no one wins”. In politics it challenges any legitimate moral standard that of necessity must be upheld. It is why we are trying to legitimize homosexual marriage; it doesn’t make “sense” but everyone needs to win.
Vote on November 2, but recognize that we will get what we have cultivated in our corporate value structure and politicians are products of those values – most are built in and are controlling. If you expect something different, you are naive. If you want to change things we have to address the core values of our culture.
Call me a pessimist, a skeptic or whatever you like, Politicians are not leaders. They are pragmatic individualists who will say or do anything to further their careers and futures and have the freedom to sway in the wind of their relativism, or as James put it – be tossed to and fro by every wind of doctrine.