I Wanted A Politician, Not A Puppet

(NOTE: Based on time elapsed since the posting of this entry, the BS-o-meter calculates this is 15.678% likely to be something that Ferrett now regrets.)

One of the liberal complaints about Obama is, He didn’t do everything I wanted him to do. They had a laundry list of everything they wanted Obama to get done, including free socialist health care for everyone, and the fact that he didn’t do it means that he’s a bad politician.
Here’s my take: a politician who does everything you want is a bad politician.
See, politics is complicated.  Really complicated.  I couldn’t tell you who’s in charge of the Senate funding committees for the Pentagon, nor do I understand which Democrats have enough Republican constituents that they have to salve their conservative base periodically, nor do I have the slightest clues as to the rules of order for the House.  I have a general idea of how things go, but it’s about as vague as describing the cellular mechanisms of my body fighting off a flu virus as “I sneeze a lot.”
I elect a politician to learn these things for me.
Electing a politician, any politician, is an act of faith.  You vote for the guy who looks like he has enough of your concerns in mind, and then send him off to do your duties for you.  And you trust that he’s smart enough to a) know the overall goal, and b) do what he’s able to do with what he has.
Look, do I think that Obama really tried hard to push English-style, socialized health care for everyone?  No.  No, I do not, and that is what I wanted.  But did I also have a list of every member in both Houses, knowing what concessions I’d have to give to get them to vote for my desired health care bill, and a tally of the costs it would take?  Did I have a list of the huge numbers of polls Obama doubtlessly took, determining what America as a whole thought on the topic?  Did I know how much influence the insurance companies had in the House, or had I read any studies on the effects that a sudden shift to socialized medicine would have on America’s economy?
I did not.  So I’m disgruntled, but I’m also willing to admit that Obama may have wanted just as badly as I did to have socialized health care for everyone, and was “only” able to push through a huge bill that completely changed the face of American health care.  Politics is about realism, as in “What you can get done,” and I’ve read too many books on Lincoln to know that “what you want to do” and “what you can actually do now” are two very separate things.
If I had a politician who did everything I wanted, then I’d have a politician who had my expertise – which is to say, none.  And he’d vote in all sorts of things, regardless of who it would piss off, regardless of whether it would actually pass, regardless of whether there were actually hidden consequences I hadn’t thought about that would make this disastrous if it did pass.
That’s not to say Obama gets a free pass, of course.  It may well be that if I looked at all the secret data on Guantanamo Bay and the uptick in drone strikes, I’d be convinced to do what Obama is doing now.  But I find that doubtful, and so if I had a choice on foreign policy, I might consider throwing my vote behind someone else.  But, as the third Presidential debate pretty much proved, I don’t.
So no.  I’m not entirely thrilled with Obama.  But if I had a politician who did literally everything I asked of him, I’d probably have an inefficient puppet who made me feel good and accomplished zip.  I’d rather have a politician who does what I want if I was informed enough to follow all the news to the extent that a politician does… which is to say a politician who’s going to frustrate and contradict me from time to time.

1 Comment

  1. starskeptic
    Nov 8, 2012

    “He didn’t do everything I wanted him to do.”
    – that’s one I hadn’t heard; my complaint is that he didn’t do
    anything I wanted him to do.

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