Tuesday, October 17, 2006

The Classics Never Get Old

Neither classic books, nor classic jokes, nor classic post topics . . .

Phoblog reader pop-quiz:

True or False - I would agree with the following statement, taken from a reader comment: A politician is not supposed to be an educator, they are supposed to act as an agent for the people who elected them and then they are supposed to be accountable at election time.

Okay, clarifying point - to fully answer the question requires knowing more about the intended meaning of "agent." So first, define "agent." Then answer the question. Be sure to explain your answer.


doughnut70 said...

Actually the best comment on the subject came from James Madison who compared the role of elected officials to that of store clerks working for owners who were traveling.

This fits because the average voter doesn't have time to study the issues that confront a political body closely and they have to trust an elected official to do what's right, but they also know that you are supposed to be thinking about what they would want you to do if they did have the time to study an issue, just as you would think about what a store owner would want if you had to make a decision and he was not on the scene to tell you what to do.

Anonymous said...

It's a nice idealistic quote but I think that in a modern western democracy a politician is somebody selected by his party to represent their views in government. The political parties are influenced by their larger sponsors and answer to the masses; who are in turn influenced by the media. The voting part keeps things moving along by allowing the parties to shuffle people and keeps the masses content. Who holds more influence over the elected, the people who voted for the party he represents or the party that allows him to carry their name and funds his campaigns?

(Sorry I have been listening to a lot in the last few days and I think I now have ideas above my station! Still there is nothing like a track like Funky Bikini by Ursula 1000 to bring you back down to earth.)

Anonymous said...

Well, over here we aren't so much voting for the party - at least, well, we are but we aren't. Here's where I wish my comp gov class had comp-ed US with UK and not nothing with 3d world countries that don't even have governments, but I digress.

I see what you mean though.

doughnut70 said...

John makes a fair point, but even though large sponsors have an incredible say in what goes on that money and power is generally funnelled through individuals not parties. For example, when legislative leaders of either party need money for a hot race, they don't go to Democratic sources to get it (contrary to popular belief) they go to sources they have developed through the years and raise the money themselves. A lot of it gets funneled through party organizations, but that is simply because of some quirks in the law.

There is very little money that is raised for any general use by a political party, instead it is raised as needed for a specific project when an elected official asks for it.

If the system worked the way you described it, someone could rise up through party ranks and then when they get to the top, completely change the direction of the party without getting much opposition from the ranks. On the other hand, in this country, we place a value on politicians who have made stood for change against the party orthodoxy. To find a comparable foreign figure is hard, but Winston Churchill rose to the top in England by being the first one to oppose the Nazi's and then when everyone in England was looking to take them on, they made him Prime Minister, but it doesn't generally happen like that in other countries. However, here you go through the groupings and you have people like John McCain, Bill Clinton, George Bush (The father) Ronald Reagan, Jimmy Carter and George McGovern all of whom ran for President on arguments that they were not the typical member of their political party. Even George W. Bush had to come up with compassionate conservative to try and establish a difference. The same thing is true at the local levels, although to a lesser degree. Voters want to see elected officials think about them first before their party and reward the small number who do and more to the point, candidates by and large have to raise the money for their endeavors themselves and those who wait for Democratic sources to fund them (more accurately labor unions) usually don't get very far unless they establish a relationship with those interests. A lot of it's about money, but its still about individuals more than groups.