It is fine to assume the best about people; in many ways, it is what allows civil society to function. I need to assume the teller at the bank isn’t pocketing my cash when I make a deposit! Sometimes, though, individuals tell us who they really are. When they do, we really should believe them.
There is an unfortunate trend in politics for voters not to believe who the incumbents really are. For better or worse, candidates are essentially products. Marketing blitzes with carefully scripted ads, right down to perfectly poised family Christmas cards, create a sense of personal intimacy without actual substance.
We don’t know them. We don’t know the person; so we vote for the product.
But that product is a big-ticket item; like a house or a car. Yet more so, because our vote is an investment in the future of ourselves, our children, our neighbors. We want to get it right.
Then the candidate becomes the officeholder. Then the candidate doesn’t deliver. Then the candidate proves themselves not to be “fighter” claimed in the ads, but another cog in the wheel of the establishment cronies.
As you might imagine, no one ever campaigns as “cog for the cronies.” Yet they show us that by their actions.
Enter the cognitive dissonance, that disquieting realization that comes when confronted with two things that cannot be true at the same time. The candidate cannot be both the “fighter” and the “lackey.”
We made the decision to purchase that big-ticket item… we made a promise to protect our kids… we told our neighbors to embrace this person… We clam up.
This is why incumbency has such a hold. It’s not because of the money or power, but because we shackle ourselves to our own bad decisions. We shackle ourselves to the servant we hired on the basis of a fraudulent campaign.
We don’t want to admit we were wrong, and so we ignore those facts that run contrary to our first decision. We lash out at those who point to any inconvenient facts, and we even distort reality to match the outcome we wished had been achieved.
When it is a car, we say things like, “I think it is great that the back windows don’t roll down and steering column doesn’t adjust – fewer things that can go wrong!” With a politician, we become fawning cheerleaders and embarrassing apologists. That’s a bad look.
As the hiring officers on the committee to save the republic, we should be something more. Citizens should treat the selection of our servants as less than a personal investment and more of a professional exercise. Rather than pridefully allow our losses to mount, we should be willing to move on.
When politicians show us who they really are, we should believe them, fire them, and then find someone who will actually deliver the outcomes we desire.