Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Character and policy; a confession

Listening to political pitches and trying to evaluate past history we all need to consider many factors to make a reasonable choice.  For those who think about policy a few character flaws might be acceptable if their policies are moved forward.  I confess getting what I really want helps me to overlook or forgive minor transgressions and believe most people are not much different.  On the other hand policy is difficult and is almost always in a context with other policies that requires prioritizing and bargaining.  So character can be a decisive factor in a vote decision.  Yet both these factors have to fit into whatever system is operating.

Successful politicians must somehow convince a wide range of people to get elected.  They will offer policies and promote their integrity.  Any policy they do offer is likely to offend some voters so they are careful to minimize.  A good blend of policies supported by a good image may gather enough voters to gain power even if a majority are displeased.

Policies I support include dealing with climate change, with injustice, with the danger of nuclear war, with the displacement of refugees and the quality of life.  There are a lot of powerful vested interests that oppose policies that effectively deal with these concerns.

The Republicans have a set of policies that represent the wants and needs of the wealthy.  In all cultures the rules are made by the powerful, but to some extent it is necessary to placate the masses.  This has been done by such things as offering "bread and circuses," and catering to prejudice.  Humans seek pleasure and avoid pain.

The conservatives feel they deserve to enjoy their wealth to the maximum and resent others who want to be treated fairly at their expense.  This is natural and if you don't believe me take a closer look.  This doesn't mean there are no benevolent wealthy and powerful people, but to get to the very top it is easier to discard or minimize weaknesses.

In order to win the co-operation, especially in a nominal democracy something must be offered to the masses.  There are many prejudices that can be sparked by pointing out how one group gets some "advantage"  Outsiders are always easy prey.

Some issues lay dormant until someone points them out.  We go about our daily pursuit of the good life with little thought to bigger issues.  Climate change, nuclear proliferation, pandemics, injustice, displacement of refugees and the international economic order do not dominate most of our daily thinking, but can upend everything.  Government policies affect not only our daily battles, but also these overarching concerns.  Nobody has exactly the same views on these issues, nor can anyone understand all the complexities so in one sense integrity over rides policy.

All this to say Donald Trump is a big mistake for character and policy.  Rich powerful people like some of his policies (and he has determined which ones attract their attention) and smart people have determined how to attract the attention of enough voters to force a package of policies onto the citizenry.

Two examples of what concerns the wealthy are taxes and regulations.  Taxes mean they have to share their wealth with others and regulations restrict their profits.  Both these concerns often work against those less powerful.

Examples of catering to prejudice include laws surrounding minority rights and immigrants.  Sex is a big area of righteousness.  Promiscuity is sinful.  Abortions and contraception (any promotion of sex) are evil as is homosexuality.   Guns make people feel safer against violence and others feel powerful against outsiders.  It is amazing that even here in my opinion people are voting against their own interests.  The rich and powerful can to some extent ignore laws.

Evangelicals who form an integral part of Trump's base are convinced Israel is a key to the resurrection of Christ and insist on supporting Israel regardless of the Palestinian occupation.  This feeling is so strong they are able to overlook major character flaws that are normally considered unforgivable.

If a politician is willing to cater to one issue voters they can enact their agenda no matter how it impacts the rest of the population (including those one issue voters).

Being a politician is an impossible job.  If you aren't elected there is nothing much you can do except protest and somehow hope that reason wins the future.  Perhaps the most practical thing is to develop and support particular policies and use both logic and marketing skills to make the policy improvement.   Working with others with compatible policy ideas strengthens both, but inevitably at some point compromises have to be made.  My bottom line is people need to be educated.

For voters it really is complex deciding who to support.  In many systems there are basically two choices that can get power.  There is a package of policies and characters to  decide.  In multi party systems  with a first past the post setup a voter can decide which package makes the most sense, but often it is complicated with the practical desire to prevent an undesirable outcome.  As usual I favor the proportional system where you can decide the best package (policies and character) and your voice will have a greater impact, although maybe not as strong as you wished.

For one explanation of how proportional voting reflects the will of the people:

The photo is of immigrants at a location near where I live.

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