Monday, January 21, 2008

On Cynicism

I had a political discussion with my dad this weekend, and it just reiterated my frustration with Hillary's candidacy. It's not that I don't think she's qualified, wouldn't like to have a woman president, or think she's personally execrable. It's just that when I try to talk about good governance in the last 30 years, Clinton is pretty much the only example I can give of a president who was looking out for the interests of average Americans and who was actually decent at politics. But it seems like I can't utter a single word of praise for Clinton without having to have the blowjob discussion.

And I'm so, so tired of having that discussion.

My biggest frustration, though, is with the "all politicians are the same" argument. What can I say to that? Politicians are people, and if you expect perfection, you will eventually be disappointed. But that kind of cynicism keeps good people out of government, and makes it easy to dismiss anyone who claims to actually want to help people. Flat out, it doesn't help.

So I believe what the candidates tell me. When Hillary says she wants to help average Americans, but it's hard, and she'll have to compromise, I believe her. When Edwards says he wants to protect us from corporations relentlessly pursuing profit, I believe him. I believe that Obama has plans to change the system. And when every Republican except McCain tells me that they want more torture and more secret prisons, I believe them. And when McCain says he thinks we could stay in Iraq for 100 years, I believe him. I believe Huckabee wants to amend the Constitution to bring it more in line with Biblical principles because he told me so.

I believe them all, and let that guide my decisions, even when I know some of it probably isn't true, and that some of it can't be true (I'm sure some of what Romney says is true, but it can't all be). Because the lies that people tell reveal more about their character than the truth. After all, if you're telling the truth, you're constrained somewhat by what the truth actually is, but if you're lying, you've got carte blanche.

17 comments:

Larry Jones said...

"All politicians are the same" is code for Yikes, my guy has just been caught hustling young boys, or soliciting bribes, or torturing prisoners and so now I'm gonna drop out and not vote for anybody.

Wren said...

"When Hillary says she wants to help average Americans, but it's hard, and she'll have to compromise, I believe her. When Edwards says he wants to protect us from corporations relentlessly pursuing profit, I believe him. I believe that Obama has plans to change the system."

I'm a dreamer. I wish we could have a president that would do all three of those things. Or maybe elect all three candidates for a shared presidency in which each focuses on what they do best, but work together... Yeah, I know. Reality intrudes. It will Never Happen.

Btw: Came here via Blue Girl, encouraging me to read your thoughtful post. Thanks for sharing it with us.

Jennifer said...

After all, if you're telling the truth, you're constrained somewhat by what the truth actually is, but if you're lying, you've got carte blanche.

Nuff said.

littlehorn said...

"It's just that when I try to talk about good governance in the last 30 years, Clinton is pretty much the only example I can give of a president who was looking out for the interests of average Americans and who was actually decent at politics. But it seems like I can't utter a single word of praise for Clinton without having to have the blowjob discussion."

Uhhh. Do you have any actual recollection of what Clinton did ? You know, bombings, expansion of government powers, SWAT teams shit left unchallenged, the war on drugs, talks of terrorist threats coming from Iraq, sanctions that killed many iraqi civilians, NAFTA...

"My biggest frustration, though, is with the "all politicians are the same" argument. What can I say to that? Politicians are people, and if you expect perfection, you will eventually be disappointed. "

Wow, so that's how you describe the US collection of politicians ? Guys who are not perfect? Dude, the politicians in the US are assholes who think they're better than everyone else and they shouldn't listen to the people. They are people who lie non-stop. They are people who use fake images to get elected.

"But that kind of cynicism keeps good people out of government, and makes it easy to dismiss anyone who claims to actually want to help people. Flat out, it doesn't help."

Yes, so let's just imagine that they're all very good guys trying to do good for the US and the rest of the world. Let's not look into what they say and do and call them out on their lies and fake images. Because that would be cynicism. This is how i feel you could answer in a parallel universe:
"What do you expect ? Politicians who display a clear and precise program, and then apply it precisely ? What do you think this is ? A Republic ? Politicians are elected according to their images. And then they do whatever they want to do. So stop bothering me with your facts and believe their lies already !"

"I believe them all, and let that guide my decisions, even when I know some of it probably isn't true, and that some of it can't be true (I'm sure some of what Romney says is true, but it can't all be)."

So maybe instead of asking people to believe what politicians say, you should actually point out their lies ?

"Because the lies that people tell reveal more about their character than the truth. After all, if you're telling the truth, you're constrained somewhat by what the truth actually is, but if you're lying, you've got carte blanche."

I don't get it. Let's say i promise i'm gonna erase taxes and i don't do it...it's ... ok ?

----------------

In my opinion what you're asking for is not the end of cynicism, but rather blindness to lies, and blindness to the approaching of Fascism.

littlehorn said...

I think this is the contrary. There's not nearly enough cynicism and there's not enough accountability on the part of the politicians, and there's not enough research into their records on the part of the press. We need to be intransigeant.

Unaccountability and blind faith will lead to even more immoral conduct.

Larry Jones said...

Littlehorn - I have some recollection: Balanced budget, serious peace effort in the mideast (sabotaged by specious Republican impeachment), unprecedented prosperity, Trade Center bombers brought to justice, genocide halted in Kosovo, nuclear freeze in North Korea, to name a few.

I understand your anger and frustration at the fact that many if not most of our politicians are gaming the system for their own benefit. But if you are among the intransigent "All politicians are alike crowd," and you want to make unrealistic full-exposure demands or else you'll refuse to choose one of them to be President, you will simply be left out of the process entirely.

littlehorn said...

"Littlehorn - I have some recollection: Balanced budget, serious peace effort in the mideast (sabotaged by specious Republican impeachment), unprecedented prosperity, Trade Center bombers brought to justice, genocide halted in Kosovo, nuclear freeze in North Korea, to name a few."

All these things do not matter.

When judging a presidency, one does not do an arithmetic sum of good and bad things, looking at the bottom if the result is positive or negative.

One judges each and every action and when one of them is wrong, as in the case of the bombings of Iraq or the sanctions that killed thousands of its civilians, then you can only judge that person to be wrong. Regardless of whatever else he did.

I sincerely hope that you would not root for Bush if, in addition to everything he did until now, he had had a balanced budget, stopped some criminals, stopped a genocide, and in general did everything you credit Clinton for.

""
But if you are among the intransigent "All politicians are alike crowd," and you want to make unrealistic full-exposure demands or else you'll refuse to choose one of them to be President, you will simply be left out of the process entirely.
""

This is true, but you seem to accept this situation as acceptable, and even inevitable.

Who decided that I should be left out of the process ? Is this a democracy or not ? Do we have the power or not ?

As if one could not ask for something different. Why can't we have a Dennis Kucinich ? Why can't we have more than 2 parties ?

I say it is not unrealistic.

"Now is not the time for gradualism."

almostinfamous said...

i dont want to prod too much further, but we could do worse than remember Mr. Clinton's role in effectively sabotaging the Kyoto Protocol.


@larry jones' first comment: no, all "politicians are the same" is code for 'holy FSM, is anyone not for sale in that whole godforsaken city?'

Larry Jones said...

Littlehorn - You asked for an "actual recollection" of what Clinton did. I named a few good things that the his administration accomplished. Sorry if I misunderstood the question. There were bad things, too, of course, but on balance I judge Clinton's presidency to have been good. I admit it's a personal judgment, and I welcome you to have your own. But by your standards, all presidents are bad. In fact, all people are bad, because sometimes they do bad things, and in that light the good things they may accomplish simply "...do not matter."

Almost Infamous - Everything's for sale. But all politicians are not the same. Al Gore needed a lot of money to run against George Bush, and he took contributions from (almost) anyone who offered. But he is not the same as George Bush, and I believe our world would be a lot different if a bunch of us hadn't decided that they're all the same, and so why vote for either one?

littlehorn said...
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littlehorn said...
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littlehorn said...

Sorry, little problem with sentence construction--

Larry, we're not talking about mere bad things either. We're talking about people dying. I recall a liberal ad that said, talking about Bush's record in contrast with Clinton's blowjob affair: "His lies didn't kill people".

So i judge him wrong, because i wouldn't do otherwise with anyone who has caused other people's deaths. It ain't much to expect a christian president not to waste people's lives.

almostinfamous said...

ok, let me rephrase that... all politicians are the same, except for Dennis Kucinich, Mike Gravel, Ron Paul, Cynthia McKinney and Cindy Sheehan.

i include ron paul because at least he's talking about withdrawal from murderous international affairs. he does have some crazy-ass ideas, but at least he isn't going to kill hundreds of thousands of people in places most americans cant find on a map, like all the other republicans.

and maybe some other members of congress(not many though). i think all of the senators are already spoken for by some corp. or other.

Mike said...

little horn, thanks for providing a vivid example (albeit from the left, and not about sex) of exactly what I was talking about.

Mike said...

Okay, I will engage on a couple of points:

1. I'm not a big fan of the "One Strike and You're Out" philosophy of politics.

2. Anyone who thinks Ron Paul is a good guy needs to read some of the articles he put in his newsletter in the 80s. Recycling racist and homophobic talking points from the KKK again and again and again makes you a bad guy in my book, even if you "didn't really mean it".

3. I don't support Kucinich for president for the simple reason that I don't want Kucinich to be president. I don't agree with many of his policy proposals, and I don't think pacifism is a viable national defense strategy.

4. I believe that running a country means that you will sometimes have blood on your hands. I don't like it, but that's the world we live in.

5. When I hold Clinton up as an example of what a good president can accomplish, it's because he's the best we've had in my lifetime, IMO, not because he was my ideal president. Seeing the good he did gives me hope that a better president could do even more good. Seeing the bad he did just reminds me of how far we as a race (i.e. the human one) have to go.

littlehorn said...

"4. I believe that running a country means that you will sometimes have blood on your hands. I don't like it, but that's the world we live in."

Yes, sometimes you just have to invade, occupy, bomb, etc. That's how it is to run a country.

Well my bad Mike, i didn't know this was a pro-imperialism blog. Guess i'll be going then...

Trish said...

Mike,

Thanks for summing up something I have been struggling to articulate for a long time:

When I hold Clinton up as an example of what a good president can accomplish, it's because he's the best we've had in my lifetime, IMO, not because he was my ideal president. Seeing the good he did gives me hope that a better president could do even more good. Seeing the bad he did just reminds me of how far we as a race (i.e. the human one) have to go.

Keep up the great work on the blog!