30 April 2008

Bernard Explains Political Parties

"The problem with the parties," Bernard said matter-of-factly, "is that they think that moving left or right is the same thing as moving forward."

"That sounds cute," I retorted, "but that's sort of without meaning, isn't it?"

"No. Political parties and the electoral process are set up to frustrate progress."

"How could that be? Competition brings out the best ideas, the best people."

"Really?" Bernard paused while we watched a tiny flock of pedestrian birds run after the receding waves and peck into the sand. "I guess that's true for, say, sprinters. It's not so obvious when you're trying to find someone who can best lead communities. But that's not what I wanted to talk about," he said.

"Progress?" I asked.

"Yes. Progress. The electoral process basically ensures that politicians will move to the right or left but not move forward."

"So you say," I offered calmly. It was too difficult to become annoyed at the beach. I listened instead.

"The whole purpose of a campaign is to say, 'gotcha,'" he lunged forward, startling the birds. "So any smart politician avoids making mistakes. And, they need to appeal to the base. So, they embrace left or right mantras and they try to perfect a message. They try to avoid mistakes and try to look good."

"Makes sense," I say. "But how does that obfuscate progress?"

"If you are going to make progress, you are going to do new things. If you are going to do new things, you are going to do them poorly. You are going to look foolish, not in control. You will not look good if you're really making progress."

"And?"

"And you'll lose the election. It's simply too awkward to make progress and win elections. You can't do both."

"So, to win an election is to turn right or left but not move forward," I repeat.

"My point exactly," said Bernard. And with that, we turned west to watch the sunset. There is something so spectacular about the demise of a day. We watched the sun elongate and then disappear all together. I can't tell you why it looked so beautiful.

6 comments:

Big Al said...

Looks like politics is just like working at most companies: failure is punished. Isn't it great how the folks who do really, really well in the business world amassing a fortune so large it dwarfs the GDP of most small countries make even more wealth authoring books with catchy phrases like "if you're not failing once in awhile you're not trying"? Easy for them to say. They've amassed their fortunes and aren't in government.

sigh . . .

Gypsy at Heart said...

Bernard is so right about the whole pouncing thing. All it takes is one slip up from any of the candidates, and the media is on it like a hungry tiger. I can understand that we want perfection in our candidates. The highest office in the land demands a nearly one hundred percent all the time kind of infallibility. Nevertheless, there is no such thing. We are choosing human beings to lead human beings, not robots or machines to lead us. We all make mistakes don't we? I'm of the mind that CERTAIN types of mistakes should be overlooked and that there are better places at which to point my magnifying glass when wishing to look closer at the issues that SHOULD matter in these elections. We are getting bogged down by all the trivialities and missing the bigger picture. Kind of like paying attention to just the one grain of sand when you could be enjoying the lovely sunset.

cce said...

Is it the process or the people that embrace the process that should be faulted for the mediocrity of our candidates and our political leadership? Whenever I hear people suggest that the good old U.S. of A. is the greatest country on earth, I pause and contemplate the silliness of that statement in light of the fact that our populace elected W. to office not once, but twice. If that can happen here then I'm pretty much with Bernard. We shift left, we shift right but no one really wants progress or change or we, as a people, would be rioting in the streets right now.

Ron Davison said...

Big Al,
welcome to R World. And yes, failure is easier to take when your fallback plan is to cash out some portion of your $1.3 billion in stock.

Milena,
it should be a whole field of study - the difference between mistakes that people wink at and the mistakes that bring you down. Oddly, it less often seems related to the performance than the perception of character.

cce,
on a lighter note, the fact that we've lived through two terms of Bush might indeed be proof that we're the greatest nation on earth. His reckless spending would have caused about 193 of the world's 200 countries to liquidate, for instance. He has proven that we're fairly resilient. Wait. You know, I really don't have a response to that.

Big Al said...

Ron, just wanted to let you know I used to be referred to as simply "Allen", but with my happiness quotient now having increased due to it being Spring-time and all, I've since become "Big Al".

Lifehiker said...

Obama may be "left", but he is the only one being pretty honest. I've heard him several times, and I hear truth being spoken about problems and solutions.

Hillary's speeches are pandering, and McCain has caved in to the right wing.

It's time for someone who will talk straight to America, and Obama will do that. Not that I'm biased...but we need him now.