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DAVIS: It’s time to let the patient go

May 23, 2011

It seems like we just got out of an election season. In fact, some campaign signs may still be found along roadways. Last fall was a particularly divisive stretch with accusations and allegations flying around like flies at a picnic. It’s a time of year when some residents begin to feel renewed and rejuvenated. The batteries of the political machine are charged and the only thing left to do is to find a driver. Depending on how you look at it, candidate selection is oftentimes done way before filing periods and campaigns even begin.
The issue becomes do we want to elect officials based upon the needs of the community or upon the dealings of the “political machine” this county is famous for, deservedly or not.
The problem with the “game” of politics is that it exists in a bubble that is small and selective. The “players” are well-known individuals.
In order to understand just what we are talking about here, it is necessary to seek definitions. For example, the word “politics” is defined as “the science or art of political government” according to Dictionary.com. This begs the question, “What is the difference between political government and representative government?”
The website further defines “playing politics” as “to engage in political intrigue, take advantage of a political situation or issue, to resort to partisan politics.” It also defines this term as “to deal with people in an opportunistic, manipulative or devious way, as for job advancement.” Doesn’t sound too much like representative government to me.
The other issue associated with politics is that “politicians” play it. So, let’s seek a definition from Dictionary.com. A politician is defined as “a person who is active in party politics; a seeker or holder of public office, who is more concerned about winning favor or retaining power than about maintaining principles; a person who holds a political office.” Interesting. To take this information a step farther, it stands to figure that a representative form of government cannot exist if politicians hold the office. At least that’s how I see it.
The difficulty that arises each time around election season is determining who the politicians are and who the candidates are. It is always easy to know who the candidates are because we see their names on the signs and the ballot. They are the people who speak to us at rallies, canvas our neighborhoods and call us asking for our votes. The politicians are much harder to see. Sometimes they are the candidates, but more times than not, they aren’t. Self-defined “power brokers” often work behind the scenes helping a particular candidate become the politician. They know what buttons to push, which stories to leak and where the bodies are buried. And, just like it says in the definition of a politician, they wield this information like a sword at just the right place and the right moment for maximum impact and gain. Basically, the end justifies the means.
But lost in all of this wrangling and political posturing is the structure of true government run by the people and for the people. Elections are held to select individuals to represent the interests of the electorate, not the other way around. But sometimes elected officials transform into politicians when they reach office. They say it is necessary to “play the game in order to get anything done.” While that may be true, it is not why voters trusted their votes to an individual to do a job. They expect that person to stop the game and run the government as it is set to run.
I know what you are thinking. The patient is too far gone to be revived. We must accept things as they are, not as how we want them to be.
I respectfully disagree. The only reason this form of political game playing has been able to survive in our community is because we keep feeding the patient. Once the election is over, we often times lose interest and go about our business. Our troubled child sneaks out at night and we are not aware until something bad happens.
We must not accept this notion. We must expect the people we put into any office that requires a vote to put them there to be up front with their ambitions, desires and motivations. If we are unclear, we must insist. If our elected officials drift, we must set matters back onto course. We must not accept back-room dealings nor must we partake in them. By doing so we only continue to feed the patient. This next election cycle, let’s turn off the life support.

The Saline Courier Editor-in-chief Brent Davis is a lifelong resident of Benton and Saline County. The Courier has been part of his life for as long as he can remember. He is a graduate of Benton High School. His column appears twice a week: on Fridays on Page 3 of The Saline Courier and on www.bentoncourier.com, and on the Opinion Page in Sunday’s edition.
davisb@flash.net

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