Top 5 – Things We Hate About Politics

Earlier today there was a great post by Ed Albetski on GovLoop about how the primary election process needs to change and it got us here at GovLoop thinking what else would we change about politics.

First off, it should be noted that you should always read Ed’s posts because they either A) contain an awesome restaurant or food recommendation or B) have great content that is thought provoking. Obviously, his post today was the latter. Secondly, while Ed’s suggestion for primary elections are great, there are some things in politics in general that just need to hit the bricks. We talked amongst ourselves at the GovLoop offices today and here’s the “Top 5 Things in Politics We’d Axe If We Could.”

5. Compromise is a dirty word – Henry Clay [link] would be rolling over in his grave if he saw the recent debt ceiling battle. Yes, as a political figure you should fight for what you and those who elected you want but we are all ultimately on the same team and something is usually better than nothing.

4. It’s not an issue until it affects me – If you’re 60 you probably don’t need birth control, but your kids might. If you’re 25 you probably aren’t thinking about Medicare, but you will be in 30 years. Nobody uses every government program, but everyone uses one.

3. There are only two options – The two party system used to work, but it doesn’t anymore. The parties are so entrenched in their base’s beliefs that there’s no option for someone who’s okay funding social programs, but also wants to save a little money. Yes, candidates exist in the middle but the system makes it exponentially harder for them to win and affect change.

2. No expertise – The people making laws and deciding budgets don’t understand what they are making laws about. Do congressmen and women on the transportation committee really know anything about transportation? Probably not.

1. The throwing of govies under the bus – It’s one thing for the public to muddy the water between politicians and govies and treat them as one, but it’s completely different when politicians talk about how bad government is. They’re the problem, not govies! Don’t politicians understand where their bread is buttered… you can make all the laws and decisions you want, but without anyone to execute them nothing gets done.

I’m sure you all have a laundry list of things you could fill in your Top 5. Feel free to let us know what those are below in the comments.

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Julie Chase

1. The shouting between the extremists of both parties is so bad, that this independant/moderate, can’t get a word in edgewise.

2. It’s not what is best for the country, it’s about who is “right”, the left extremist or the right extremist.

3. It’s the same song and dance every 4 yrs and every 2 here. Pie crust promises, easily made, easily broken.

4. When it’s time to cut civil servants, instead of cutting at the bloated top GS13 and above, the GS4, 5, and 6’s are RIF’d. Come again???

5. Stop telling us our country is broke, when if and when you decide to stop “lending” money to other countries, you might see the light of day. Any country in the ME that we help, don’t send cash, send tankers, I’ll let you know when your debt is paid.

Christopher Whitaker

Congress needs to explain why they do the things they do instead of having claimants kick and scream at me because I’m just following what they wrote in the law.

Ed Albetski

Wow! Thanks for the kind words, Stephen!

To follow up on your number 2 point of “No Expertise”, every occupation where incompetence can hurt others has a test to insure that the applicant has the required skills and education for the job; doctors, lawyers, bus drivers, pilots, etc, but not elected officials. And incompetence in these specialized jobs obviously lead to grave consequences, sometime for the entire country. Maybe it’s time to require that “just any idiot” has to prove that they can pass an SOL on seventh grade civics, or maybe the same citizenship test we give for naturalization.

Stephanie Slade

The lack of expertise is an especially big problem because in our system of government, in order to stand a chance of being reelected, pols have to take their cues from an electorate that, let’s face it, knows even less about the minutia of public policy than they do. Recipe for disaster.

Peter Sperry

1. Elected officials are ignorent politicians when take positions we disagree with and enlightened statesmen/women when they do what we like.

2. People who have never held elected office, never worked for an elected official, and never worked on an election campaign know more about what motivates elected officials and their staffs than individuals who have spent years in the elective arena and will share their knowledge freely.

3. The public insists on compromise, except on issues that affect them in which case any deviation from their desires is selling out and will be punished during the next election.

4. When one group of people protests government peacefully and nonviolently they are castigated as threats to democracy with homoerotic slurs. When an other group conducts a rowdy illegal take over of a state capital which requires police intervention they are praised as citizen activists.

5. Elected officials from one party are supposed to ignore the overwhelming financial and volunteer labor support public employee unions provide their election year opponents as well as pretend they do not know that many of the people supposedly working for them have the opposing party’s headquaters on speed dial. Elected officials from the other party are supposed to remember who put them there and reward their supporters accordingly.

And yet somehow the system works. Our government and our politics may be far from perfect but with all its fauls, we remain one of the most free, most prosperous and most noble nations on earth. I still get a thrill when I visit the Capital and remember the story told by guides. When an english visitor in the early 19th century was unimpressed with the chamber of the House of Representatives, one of the members replied “Yes, but here madam, the people rule.” And for all the rough and tumble animosity, they still do.

Pat Fiorenza

I think the “no expertise” one is a little tricky. We certainly need competent people in office as our representatives, and some of them today clearly should not be. I don’t expect my elected official to know every detail about every policy and be an expert across so many fields of study. I’m not sure it’s realistic that someone can be expected to be an expert on tax policy, health care, economy, poverty, etc..The issues are way to complicated. I’d prefer if they would acknowledge they aren’t the experts, work with experts and make more rational decisions. We are supposed to have some of this in congress anyways with the committee structure – but since the culture in DC is such a mess, any effort at bipartisanship falls on deaf ears. It’s just sad the way politics is functioning right now – next year will be an interesting election year for sure.

Mark Hammer

There are few things as dangerous as someone with good intentions and not enough information. As such, the “expertise” comment hits home.

What I fnd most distressing abut politics these days is the near vampiric bloodthirst to “win”. It’s ALL about “winning”. Politics is the science and practice of developing, proposing, and comparing policy in order to address common challenges as they arise. I am regularly reminded of this by the French word for policy – politique. But the discipline of proposing better and more effective and thoughtful policies, and being granted authority because of one’s competence at developing better policy, has been supplanted by the pursuit of unopposed authority to impose policy that may not be all that thoughtful, or even ultimately successful, but dammit, it’s the policy you want.

The emphasis on the means (“winning”) has displaced the ends (effective public policy) that it is supposed to serve. So what I tend to hate most about “politics” these days, is that we have come to treat it as equivalent to political partisanship and partisan struggle. At some point, they are bound to enter into it, but that’s not what “politics” is supposed to be about.

So, #1 for me? Confusing the contemporary conduct of politics with its true purpose.

Alan L. Greenberg

Hmmm. Five things I dislike about politics. I can deal with politics. That’s part of everyday life. What I have difficulty with are politicians. There is a vast difference between government and politics. Government is intended to be stable, long range and for the benefit of the people. Politics on the other hand, is tuned to the short term, is entirely geared to gaining or staying in power and is meant to create the illusion of benefiting the people while in reality benefiting a chosen and influential few.

Below is a brief excerpt from the introductory chapter of my book. I was attempting to explain my own job.

“The big boss, …………… was always a political appointee. The (senior careerists) handled

the business elements and provided continuity of programs. The (political boss) got photographed by the press and made sure the current president got credit for initiatives of the prior administration.”

Top Five Peeves (or at least the first five to come to my head) about politicians.

1. Taking credit for initiatives of others, while at the same time blaming others for “inherited” and unresolved problems.

2. Telling only half of a story or only what the public wants to hear.

3. Voting strictly party lines.

4. Horse-trading votes for legislative initiatives. Have you ever noticed how much is in a piece of legislation which has nothing to do with the original bill?

5. Trashing govies – popular these days.

Dale S. Brown

One thing that drives me crazy is the way the media reports on politics. It’s always cynical. It is about the strategy- not the goals. I think that it sometimes happens that a politician is idealistic and wants to do what is good for the public. At least once in history, a politician was brave and took a stand that he or she knew would cost him votes and money. When we treat all politicians as if they are corrupt and self-interested, that is what we’ll get.

Of course, most of them deserve it, but let’s at least look at the possibility that some of them want to do good.