Quote of the week
“Elite – a group of people considered to be superior in a particular society or organization.”
When is it that a politician becomes part of the governing elite and can no longer credibly position himself as an outsider? And what is the danger of politicians constantly identifying themselves as being on the outside looking in, fighting the forces of systemic, government elitism?
Many politicians do it. Barack Obama, when running to lead the Democratic Party, said, “There are those who tout their experience working the system in Washington…But the problem is that the system in Washington isn’t working for us and hasn’t for a long time.”
Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney, distancing himself from Washington politics, said on the campaign trail that, “…my team is the people of the United States of America.”
Last February, Tea Party Republican Ted Cruz bragged to the New York Times that, “I made promises to the people of Texas that I would come to Washington to shake up the status quo… That is what I intend to do, and it is what I have done in every way possible in the responsibilities that have been granted to me.”
The Prime Minister, speaking at the Tory Convention last week, said that, “We didn’t go to Ottawa to join private clubs or become part of some ‘elite’.”
The reason politicians do it is obvious: to identify themselves with the so-called little guy. As the Prime Minister added to the party faithful, “It’s not who you are; it’s not who we are.”
The danger is that the political-leader-as-outsider concept gives credence to the view that government doesn’t actually do anything that matters and is some kind of uncontrollable behemoth that no one, not even the political leader, can control…and, by the way, for which no one, not even the political leader, can be held accountable. The result becomes governmental gridlock because no politician feels an obligation to get results: just look south of the border.
Bismarck stated that politics is the art of the possible. The role of political leaders is to work with, and in a sense, to represent the role of government in achieving what is possible so that the lives of citizens can be improved.
It is fascinating that this cry against the alleged elitism of government seems to work for seasoned politicians, not just rookies: Obama and Romney were hardly outsiders to U.S. politics, and the Prime Minister has been in office since 2006.
To re-work the above Obama quote: if “the system … isn’t working for us and hasn’t for a long time,” shouldn’t the real political leader promise to take charge and work with everyone else to make it do so?