The Perils of Public Office

I sometimes wonder how successful I would be as a politician. I really have no desire to hold public office and can’t imagine submitting myself to the indecencies of a public campaign but I do often wonder if I’d be able to actually accomplish anything. Of course, in my case I would generally measure success as simply staying alive long enough to serve out my term of office. You see, I’m pretty straight-forward; I’m terribly blunt and direct and I will, in general, tell you exactly how I feel about a particular topic. I’m also prone to actually try to change things and to follow my personal beliefs to the logical conclusion of actually trying to implement them. Unfortunately that sort of behavior is anathema to a successful political career and is liable to get you shot in the process.

We all complain about politics and politicians. In fact, complaining about politicians is one of our national pastimes, ranked right up there with baseball, hotdogs and apple pie. What would America be without a rousing argument about the current schmuck in the Whitehouse and how bad he’s lousing things up? The problem is that for all our complaining, not many of us would be crazy enough to actually try to do the job those guys do.

Now I may be an unabashed Bush basher (wow, nice alliteration) but I do have to admit the man has a thankless job. At least he has the guts to actually go out and take the arrows. That’s far more than most of us are willing to do. Whether you love him or hate him, it’s men like Bush that make this whole system work and if nobody was willing to take the job (and to risk lousing it up as bad as he has, just to keep things in perspective) it would all crumble around our ears.

Aristotle broke down government into 6 different classes, based upon how many people ruled and what form of government they instituted. His classical way of describing the different classifications included a monarchy, an aristocracy and a polity, with each category being split between rule by one and rule by many. Contrary to modern thinking, his preferred form of government was actually a benevolent aristocracy. Our classical democracy would actually be considered a polity, with rule by many. Of course the reality of the situation is that we don’t even come close to a true democracy, but we are closer to it than many other forms of government and we’d be even further from it if nobody had the guts to get up there and submit themselves to the torments of public office. We could easily devolve into a tyranny.

Many other countries like to throw rocks at our government and our politicians. They ridicule our policies, our leaders, our decisions and our direction. Of course, when I look at their politics and their governments I see many things that we do better. For one thing, we don’t throw out our form of government every few years and start from scratch. We work from within the system, trying to tweak things when they are going poorly and using the system to enact these changes. We also don’t turn on our politicians nearly as quickly, nor as viciously. All my joking about getting myself shot aside, we are relatively violence-free (with some notable exceptions) and we vastly prefer ballots to bullets. We don’t need outside poll-watchers to come in and supervise our elections to ensure that they are fair and we try very hard to not fall victim to either a tyranny of the minority nor a tyranny of the majority. All in all, I think our system works for the most part, even if it does sometimes result in bozos like Bush getting into a position of authority. I know I sure as heck wouldn’t trade it for any other form of government out there. Maybe we need something like a national Politician Awareness Day. We could slap bumper stickers saying things like “Have you hugged your congress-critter today?” or “Bush, he’s stupid but he’s ours” on cars and lampposts across town. I bet some of these guys and gals just need a little affirmation and probably get tired of being yelled at constantly. These guys have a really crappy job and, like it or not, I really do think most of them are just trying to do whatever they think the right thing might be.

I know if my kid ever looks at me and says “Dad, when I grow up I want to be President” I’m going to take him down for psychiatric counseling. I’m just glad, though, that there’s someone out there who managed to turn their little kid dreams into reality. I just wish they weren’t quite so dumb.

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