Whores and johns

By Joel Miller

The plight of the politician is a pitiful thing.

To win, a pol must cobble together a big pile of votes. Before that can be accomplished, he must first find out what will induce the electorate to foist them over. This is where things start getting sticky.

The politician hires pollsters to conduct surveys to “tap the pulse of the electorate.” After reading the poll results, the candidate is ready; he knows what and what not to say and to whom he must or must not say it. In other words, he knows what we want at some level: free health care, better education, improved Social Security, whatever.

Even if he actually believes what he’s spouting – without the aid of prosthetic opinions and conviction crutches – we only vote for a candidate when he basically reflects what we want.

Given that, why elect him in the first place? If we get beyond the fuzzy metaphysics of the thing, he’s only us – millions of sag-pants Americans packed into one bad suit with a comb-over bald spot and the IQ of a Macy’s mannequin standing at the podium just telling us what we want him to say.

That’s how the system works, and if this doesn’t indicate that we’ve got a squirrel loose in the top paddock, I’m not sure what will. Either the guy actually is us (close enough for government work, at any rate) by something resembling heartfelt conviction, or he’s been bent and twisted by campaign consultants to look like it, to mirror our heartfelt convictions.

Thus, said H.L. Mencken in his 1929 book, “Notes on Democracy,” the politician’s “public life is an endless series of evasions and false pretenses. He is willing to embrace any issue, however idiotic, that will get him votes, and he is willing to sacrifice any principle, however sound, that will lose them for him. I do not describe the democratic politician at his inordinate worst; I describe him as he is encountered in the full sunshine of normalcy.”

Take a look at the handful of pols you’re about to vote for next week – funny how things haven’t changed much in 70-plus years.

Didn’t our parents lecture us about that sort of thing as kids, the whole peer pressure thing? “Don’t go doing that just because the other kids want you to. Would you jump off a bridge just because so-and-so said so?” Next time you see some eager candidate mounting a podium with hope gleaming in his eye, know deep down inside that he was the idiot who actually answered “yes” to that question.

Given that we’re only asking the politician to be us, here’s a question: Why not just save ourselves all the trouble and elect ourselves?

Who knows our wants and desires better than we? Paying someone else to know and act upon them is frightfully expensive and usually disappointing in the outcome. Why? Even though this guy is us, he’s really not. Enter the mental dysfunction.

While psychiatrists tell us the cases are rare, we can clearly diagnosis it here – multiple personality disorder. At some level, every politician is just another Sybil with a state job. He’s got scores of personalities buzzing around in the loyalty quadrant of the brain, countless Dr. Jekylls and Mr. Hydes all vying for attention. One voice saying this, another that. And our friend the politician, who does so much to prove he’s just like us, has to somehow balance all the people he’s just like.

The consummate politician has no problem listening and fairly responding to all the voices in his head – someone completely at home with his mental illness.

Bill Clinton, for instance, could shift at the drop of a cigar and say, sure we’ll cut your taxes, my friends in the middle class. While 10 minutes later, talking to the big spenders and social engineers relying on that tax bounty to pay for their programs, he could shift to something else. Tax-cut Bill gave way to Spend Bill, and there were hundreds of Bills that manifested throughout his tenure in office.

Wolf Bill would chase the interns and, once caught, morph into Repentant Bill, shortly followed by Bible Bill, and go to church with Hillary and Chelsea, lugging a set of Scriptures the size of an economy car under his arm. Next, to distract attention from other such domestic foibles, Bible Bill would become Bomber Bill and blow up aspirin plants in Sudan and start wars in the armpit of Europe.

Then, when folks got upset and pointed out all the contradictions, he simply hovered above the fray and said with Walt Whitman, “I am vast, I contain multitudes.”

Some politicians aren’t as skilled as Clinton, however, and have a hard time with the competing voices. They typically deal with their disorder by doing the next best thing – going with the voice that yells the loudest and donates the most to their campaign. And this is where most of us start getting annoyed with our screwy system.

After all, we elected this chum to be chummy with us, not with the guy with the bigger wallet. We’re annoyed because he spent the entire campaign season saying he’d look after our concerns, our tax burdens, our projects and bring pork back to our neighborhood. Instead, the dumb jerk is looking after an entirely different set of interests, doling out pork and projects to others – not us.

We’re like johns turned down on the street because we can’t pay enough. That still makes the politicians a bunch of whores, true. But we don’t look much better.

Instead of relying on disappointing pitchmen of dubious sanity, we should take matters into our own hands. You want to help old people get cheaper medication? Don’t trust a politician. You want to fix schools? Don’t trust a politician. You want to make sure you’ve got enough money to retire? Don’t trust a politician.

You’re already voting for a poor imitation of you. Get the real thing. Leave the screwball at the podium and do it yourself.


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