Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Surf's Up

"Bait and switch" is an effective short-term tactic, but it is a hopeless long-term strategy. We've all been its victim in a store--responding to a ridiculously low price advertised on the Bettermade 1000 only to find that the store is fresh out when we get there, "But, we have plenty of the Bestmade 2000 and it is really a much better value than the Bettermade 1000."

When applied to the prurient playground of politics, "bait and switch" takes the form of either comely specific campaign promises made with no intention or ability to keep, or nebulous rabble-rousing rhetoric that stirs the heart but has no soul. This deceit is not a recently discovered political art form, but has been in existence for as long as man has interacted with man. Moses recorded in Genesis, perhaps the first known broken campaign promise--the apple, as delightful as the fruit of its consumption seemed in the abstract, did not produce the constituent contentment its consumption promised.

This barely-reconstructed rebel doesn't often offer praise for yankees. However, the Colonel is heartened that the good people of Massachusetts demonstrated this week that even the most closed-eye constituency can be roused from its for granted-taken slumber. But, the Colonel is also aware that the results of Massachusetts' US Senate special election to fill the seat formerly held by Miss Kopechne's last boyfriend are not as insignificant, nor as earth-shattering, as the two political parties would have us believe. True, the results are newsworthy--much more so than most of the tripe that passes the lips of newsies--but, our assessment of them must be tempered by the adage attributed to Tip O'Neil that "all politics is local." In reality, the Democratic candidate, once she secured her party's nomination, believed she had the election sewed up in a state where registered Democrats outnumber Republicans 3 to 1 and whose electorate went for H in a landslide barely 14 months ago. When Coakley's campaign awoke to slipping poll numbers, a rash of ham-handed missteps and electorate-insulting gaffes left her wide open to the Republican's deft counterattack.

While the Colonel does believe that an element of anger and disgust at the bait and switch tactics of the Obama administration provided some momentum away from the Democratic column in the Massachusetts senate race, as well as the Virginia and New Jersey gubernatorial races, the politicians positioning themselves to catch the wave should not mistake the message. As much as the brokers of power and purveyors of political pablum would have us believe, American political sentiment, on the whole, is not particularly policy-driven. We might say that we want our government to take care of this personal need or to do this or that for us, but, when our government intrudes into our lives in order to provide the service, we react as we nearly always have since 1775--with anger.

What we Americans really want, and for which our Constitution so adeptly provides, is government responsive to our desires for the freedom and opportunity to achieve our personal goals. We want government that provides physical security. We want government that ensures a level playing field. We want government that does our business in the open, so that we can supervise those we have chosen to serve us. We want government that does not take us for granted. Promise us "a chicken in every pot" if that is what gets you elected, but don't tell us how to cook it.

Sadly, the Colonel is afraid that the message coming out of Massachusetts, and Virginia and New Jersey, will be misinterpreted as policy-driven by politicians whose hubris prevents them from accepting that they are there because we put them there. Politicians with personal agendas will attempt to ride the current wave of popular sentiment to the left or to the right, showing off to the crowd on the beach, padding their personal power bases--and their pockets.

The Colonel hopes that real American leaders will emerge to harness the current productive wave of popular political sentiment before it turns into a destructive tsunami of violent popular expression.

But, hope is not a strategy, nor an effective course of action.
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