Isn't it amazing how so many political supporters, and donors of political candidates and parties from the elections only two years ago, are going in the opposite direction politically in this year's elections? Is this a true change in philosophy, a "power grab," an expedient decision, or merely an attempt to create and foster new and/or additional strategic political alliances?
One of the reasons that it often appears that politicians are constantly running for office, and then when elected, running for re-election, is that they are. In the American political system, our Congressional Representatives (House of Representative members known as Members of Congress or Congressmen) run every two years. In our system, it seems that campaigning often begins nearly a year before the election, and so these people do little actually governing, and are constantly campaigning. Is it any wonder that so little appears to actually get done, and that so few politicians ever become statesmen?
Most local politicians need to run every two or four years, the President every four years, and Senators every six years. In this type of political system, it is often the politician who makes the most "deals" or alliances that gets the most done. When President Kennedy was assassinated in 1963, and President Johnson assumed office, there was more of the late President's policies enacted and voted into law in the next several months after the tragic death, than during the previous nearly three years. Since Johnson was in the United States Senate for so many years, and in a powerful position, he knew the political system, and "worked it" probably as well as any elected official. He knew how to make deals, strategic alliances, etc., in order to "get it done."
One of the reasons so many young people are attracted to politics is their idealism that they can truly make a difference. Unfortunately, in most cases, idealism is not what "wins" in politics, but the strategic alliances, and the give-and-take, and then the ensuing deals, usually are what makes the difference. Many of the idealistic backers of President Obama when he was running for office have become disappointed and even disillusioned, because the elected President Obama acted more like a politician than an idealist. President Obama's appointments were predominantly conventional, and many would argue politically motivated.
President Jimmy Carter learned the lessons of the needs for strategic alliances the hard way. Most Carter observers, both pro and con, would agree that Carter wanted to be the "outsider" that he campaigned as, and didn't want to have to make those business-as-usual deals that have traditionally been made. Most would agree that Carter attempted, at least in the first eighteen months of his Presidency, to give unequaled access to the press, and held open press conferences on a regular basis, with that in mind. However, while Carter supporters might herald the attempts, his distractors argue that Carter's inability to get a consensus was one of the major reasons for the unpopularity of his administration. However, his supporters point to the fact that it must be something about the American political system, because while Carter was unpopular in this country, many other countries have called upon him to oversee and arbitrate disputes, and to be an "honest broker." That trait, indeed brought Israel's Begin, and Egypt's Sadat together for their historic decision, but others would argue that it also was a factor in the prolonged Iranian hostage situation.
Whether we like it or not, the reality of the American political system is that politicians cannot get anything accomplished on their own. They need to be consensus makers, and need to make numerous strategic alliances, and often, even "deals" for the sake of getting something important accomplished.
While we may not like this concept, we need to recognize that it exists. Politicians make promises, most of which have always turned out being empty. Those few that are able to balance out the public good with the need to get it done, are generally the most effective. Those unwilling to make these "deals" are generally well-intentioned, but rarely get anything accomplished. Unfortunately, all too many politicians forget about their obligations to the electorate, and simply get into the power, the "deals," and the adrenaline rush.
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