A sense of betrayal?

Ketchup Kerry

Churchill said that democracy was the worst possible form of government – except for all the others. Democracy is, when you think about it, an odd form of government – it operates on the assumption that the majority is right, which is, to say the least, a debatable proposition. It is always mediated through some system of government designed to iron out the dangers of what Mill called the ‘tyranny of the majority’. From Robespierre to Lenin, Stalin and Mao, many of the major atrocities of the last couple of centuries were carried out in ‘the name of the people’; a politician who invokes that mantra seems to feel himself dispensed from the moral imperatives which are supposed to guard us against tyranny.

Yet, in our own times, it is not that danger which stalks our politics, but rather the other, and less appreciated one of interest groups. Democratic politics is expensive (though there is no intrinsic reason it should be) and politicians need to garner great ‘war chests’ even to get a chance of high office. In the UK we have restrictions on what can be spent during an election period, but there are no restrictions between times – except that large donations have to be declared. If an MP gets a ‘safe’ seat – that is one where his party holds a considerable majority – he can stay in the Commons for decades. In the USA, except for the President, there are no term limits, and a Senator or Congressman can build himself an impregnable fortress. But all of this takes money, and for many of us, it seems as though our politicians are somewhat in hock to big business. The appeal of Mr Trump (quite lost on me, as on most Europeans) seems to rest in part on the fact that he’s at least spending his own money and can’t ‘be bought’.

Politics is, if you think about it, an odd business. What sort of person wants to hold high public office, to take the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, and all for what? Politicians will say they want to do good for the public, but there are many ways of doing that which don’t involve leaving home, living in the nation’s capital for a large part of the year, and listening to mind numbing ‘debates’ (which are seldom anything of the sort). My old College politics tutor used to say that such people were ‘megalomaniac narcissists, verging on the sociopathic’, which, while a bit on the harsh side in some cases, has much to be said for it. He used to say their hobbies were ‘adultery, booze and ambition’. We hear much of the need for our politicians to be representative of us – perhaps in these senses they are.

Politicians are a necessary evil in a democracy. We need them, and if we are not inclined that way ourselves, we are not in a strong position to complain about the type of person who takes it up as a career. We’re told sometimes it would be better if politics was not a career, and myself, I think term-limits a good idea, but there is no getting away from the fact that only certain types of people will want to get into politics for the long-term.

The real criticism is, I think, that our politicians give the impression of caring more about their corporate sponsors than they do the electorate. That may, of course, have always been the case, but at least they used to pretend it wasn’t; there might, after all, be something to be said for having actors in political life – at least they know how to deliver the script.


About JessicaHof
Anglican Christian, evangelist, survivor, grateful

9 Responses to A sense of betrayal?

  1. Mike says:

    All good observations. Where we have failed in the U.S. is we have allowed the responsibilities of the States to be assumed by the Federal Government. By abandoning Federalism we have allowed a massive consolidation of power… and by extension money… at the highest level of Government. Our founders created our system knowing that was to be avoided in every circumstance save what they outlined in the U.S. Constitution. This and several other aspects of our design is what makes us not a Democracy, but a Democratic Republic. Democracy on its own is poison and is by definition ‘group politics’ or Mob Rule. In the end we have become less like our founders intentions and more like our European Brethren. While I hold a fondness for you folks, I don’t think this has worked out well for our Great Experiment in Self Rule.

    Liked by 2 people

    • JessicaHof says:

      I’m with you, Mike, all the way. Separation of powers is there for a reason. Over here we’ve let it erode, and no good has come of it. The President should be kept in the place the Founders wanted, not claim to be CEO of USA Inc.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. the unit says:

    Well yeah the Constitution separated the powers of the Feds as it defined those powers. More than that it provided the dispersal of powers, i.e. Feds, States, and The People, all not defined therein left to the States and The People The States and The People have abdicated.
    I guess we can’t stay the course. Old song…
    “Maybelene, why can’t you be true?
    Oh Maybelene, why can’t you be true?
    You’ve started back doing the things you used to do.”
    So we devolve from freedom to tyranny.

    Liked by 2 people

    • JessicaHof says:

      I am afraid it is so – alas 😦

      Liked by 1 person

      • the unit says:

        Just acknowledging your response so you would know I followed up. I couldn’t make myself click the “like” star.
        But your blog post was excellent.
        I think my comment was in total agreement with Mike, worded a bit different.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Btw, for me here hitting the like button here is simply saying, true!

          Liked by 2 people

        • And for sure (in my opinion anyway) Trump is an mental idiot! His only use is to the prejudice of the ad hominem (literally the attack to/on the man).

          Liked by 1 person

        • the unit says:

          I know, same here. True, but not liking it.!

          Liked by 1 person

  3. the unit says:

    Fr. Robert, I thought I’d start a new column for replies. About your opinion, it’s all well and good.
    Earlier I had fairly good opinions of most all the contenders, even those who dropped out. Not now, just my opinion, I don’t trust any of them. And on a personal level I don’t like any of what’s left.
    I was reading another blog about political disguise. I decided to look up what Moms Mabley had to say about politicians. Not specific but considering the males standing as Republicans…”a man is a man as long as he can.” Been awhile since I’ve seen one that could stand for his constituents and good over evil, i.e. dems. 🙂


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