Sunday, February 12, 2012

Politicians don't listen

One thing I have noticed about events such as political party conventions, the recent Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), the NRA Annual meeting, and similar gatherings of all political stripes is that celebrity speakers almost never stick around to listen to the other speakers or to the attendees. I must assume that is this is because such speakers:
1 - think they are too important to stay longer,
2 - think their time is too valuable to stay longer,
3 - think they already know more than the other speakers,
4 - think they already know more than the attendees,
5 - think attendees are mere useful idiots, and/or
6 - don't want to be confused or bothered by opinions other than their own.

This phenomenon pervades the nation's entire political system. Very few politicians want to hear the opinion of another politician or of a constituent. (They do seem to listen to lobbyists with lots of money and stock tips, however.) The only constituent input a typical politician gets is poll briefings by his staff.

Take a look at the congressional debates as broadcast on CSPAN. A substantial portion of the speeches given by congressmen on the floor of the House or of the Senate are to nearly empty rooms. Why? Because politicians have lots to say, but none want to listen. So, speeches are scheduled for the middle of the night. A congressman who wants to have his say gets out of bed at 3 AM, goes to the Capitol Building, delivers his speech to an empty room and a CSPAN camera, then goes home before the next speaker begins. His staff then edits out embarrassing content and publishes this heroic empty-room speech. There is virtually no true congressional debate or discussion on any legislation.

All politicians must take the time to listen to every speech given at political conventions, on the floor of Congress, CPAC, NRA Annual Meeting, and other similar meetings in which they participate (or should participate). Each politician must commit himself to sitting through all of every event at which he speaks. We commoners will respect them much more if they do.

All that said, I don't place all the blame on politicians. We voters must also shoulder a significant portion of the blame for all that is wrong in our nation's political system. We persistently elect men and women who don't share our values because we we don't take the time to study their values and records. (We even have a president whose past is almost completely unknown except for what he chose to put in a couple of books.) Instead, we vote based on an "R" or a "D" next to their name. We even vote based on the color of a candidate's skin! Then, we complain about the horrid government we have. (Congress now has a mere 10% approval rating.) Then, we reelect the same bums back to office -- no matter how corrupt and incompatible with our values they prove to be. Politicians know all about, and exploit, our civic laziness and illiteracy.

Most American voters seem to know what's happening on American Idol, the so-called "reality" shows, and national sports, but they can't name even one local elected official let alone how any local politician stands on local issues. Few can name more than one or two state-level politicians let alone how any state politician stands on state issues. It is rare to find a voter can correctly name more than a couple of federal politicians let alone how any they stand on national or global issues. Even fewer can correctly identify more than a couple of politicians at any level by sight or by a photograph. They do, however, have the false belief that Sarah Palin said she can see Russia from her house.

So, why should politicians listen to constituents when so many of whom clearly are fools? And, why should politicians listen to each other when so many of them are corrupt?

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