Why Politicians Are Terrible People

Watching Rod Blagojevich on The Daily Show recently, I experienced an extreme visceral repulsion I usually reserve for rancid dog crap on the sidewalk. This guy is just an awful, awful person.

A Samson for our times: There is great power in bad hair.

He looks like an utter buffoon. He has terrible hair advisers. He speaks like an imbecile with zero education, which exacerbates my great personal shame about his being a fellow Northwestern alum. In our obnoxious chorus of NU alumni braggadocio (Charlton Heston, Warren Beatty, Zach Braff, George McGovern, Stephen Colbert, John Paul Stevens, Seth Meyers, I could and might go on), he’s the inaudible mutter at the end of an otherwise impressive list (“…and that douchebag political guy Blago-something”).

After taking in Stewart’s discomforting dressing-down of Blagojevich, I started thinking about other politicians and their glaring foibles. Even the “good” ones possess acutely disdainful traits. Lincoln was supposedly depressed and neurotic. FDR nearly crippled the country permanently with inane fiscal policy and big government spending. Clinton is a guy I’d love to party with, but he did some bizarre and disgraceful stuff. Sarah Palin is truly unexplainable. Rangel, W., Pelosi, Schwarzenegger, Gore—perhaps decent, well-meaning people at heart, but all jackasses to one degree or another. And why do all politicians have such bizarre hair?

Is it true that power corrupts? While the relationship between power and horrific hairdos is indisputable, I know a lot of corrupt people who aren’t very powerful, and I also know many powerful people who aren’t corrupt. The correlation is specious at best, leaned on by talking heads as a convenient, explanatory crutch.

Let’s take a look at a candidate like Meg Whitman, who is not yet a real politician but already sports an abhorrent coiffure. She’s running for governor of my home state of California, and she’s blowing a lot of moolah to do so. As an incredibly lucky and overestimated businesswoman, she has no peer. But as a political candidate, she’s following the inexorable legacy of two-faced jokers before her.

It’s a simple formula: Emphatically outline how you’re different from everyone else while doing the same old crap.

She is powerful, but what does that really mean? If you believe the dictionary (question everything, says the omniscient bumper sticker), power denotes control, authority, and influence over others. Does she really have that, or is she just an insecure loudmouth with deep pockets? In actuality, she has friends with money, and enemies who have done unspeakable things.

One explanation of the rarity of likable, honest folks in politics: It’s a terrible gig. Who wants to do service for the whining unwashed masses for peanuts? All the smart people go after the coin, which then pollutes their souls and brainwashes them into thinking they can save the world with their money and “intelligence”. So they go into politics, and then we’re all screwed together.

We the public pay a heavy toll. Our airwaves are jammed with vicious personal attacks that teach our children to point fingers and exploit faults in your competition rather than hang your hat on your own ethics and character. Our streets are dirty and littered with huddled bodies of the homeless. These people who need help the most don’t get it, as tax money is hopelessly mismanaged by the muttonheads we voted for. I guess it’s our own fault.

Perhaps the better question is, Why do we vote for idiots? We all implicitly agree to a ridiculous bipartisan system that narrows our choices down to the ignorant few and noisy disgruntled independents. One could argue that politicians are simply human; none of us is perfect, and the imperfections of those in office are amplified by media attention and public interest.

Thank goodness this meandering narrative made it all the way back to the assignment of blame to the media, our nation’s perpetual amorphous scapegoat. Of course, if we didn’t watch the wares they peddle, they wouldn’t peddle them.

Crap, it’s still our own fault.

It should come as no surprise then that the most-talked-about proposal on the ballot this fall in California involves the legalization of marijuana. A welcome side effect of Prop 19 might be a lazier populace, one too strawberry-blunted to get to the ballot boxes and confer power upon the most unscrupulous among us.

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4 thoughts on “Why Politicians Are Terrible People

  1. I’ve recently become moderately hooked on RSA Animate (in between reading Smatter posts, of course). The project takes talks hosted by the RSA (Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce – oddly interesting and progressive, given the name) and sets them to really entertaining “live” whiteboard animation (www.thersa.org).

    Reading your latest post, this statement came to mind:

    “…the problem with our democracy is less about the performance of politicians and the workings of our constitution and more about the content of the democratic conversation.” Matthew Taylor, RSA 2009

    While I don’t pretend that this one line holds any particular wisdom or answers in itself (the whole speech arguably offers some valuable insight), it struck me as apt. As an added bonus, the idea allows you to come around and (partly) blame the media again. Anyway, keep posting. -JG

    P.S. For the record, I wholeheartedly agree that many/most politicians are terrible people and have seriously questionable hair. But it’s worth considering that this may be more a symptom than a cause of our ailing democracy.

  2. This very hypothesis was proven in a Tree House of Horrors episode when Homer received a transplant of Snake’s hair. The evil is in the hair! I’m only voting bald from now on…

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