Everyone hates politicians. They’re corrupt, they’re liars, they’ll do anything to stay in power and they give precisely zero fucks about the people they represent.
At least, that’s the stereotype. But not every politician fits that mold, and even if they do aren’t we the ones who elected them?
Being a politician is one of the most thankless jobs around, so we’ve come up with a few reasons why you should give them just a little more credit.
We Reward Them for Their Bullshit
When we picture a politician we don’t think of a moderate congressman, or a small town man who ran for mayor because he genuinely wanted to improve public transportation, or build more schools, or stop hobos from masturbating in public parks. We think of people like Michele Bachmann, who says President Obama is anti-American, or Alan Grayson, who compared the Republican Party’s vision of healthcare in America to the Holocaust.
Why? Because we’d rather support the politicians who act like assholes than the ones who just want to get stuff done. The louder, more obnoxious and generally full of shit a politician is, the more money we give them and the more time they get in the spotlight. Politicians like Bachmann and Grayson? They earn far more campaign contributions than their moderate peers. They’re also the ones who get all the television coverage—politicians who try to be reasonable bore viewers and make for lousy ratings. As long as we reward politicians for acting like idiots we can’t get mad at them when they go out and give us exactly what we want.
We Like Scandals More than Politics
Remember Anthony Weiner, the Representative who caused a huge scandal by accidentally tweeting a picture of his junk? Be honest—did you have any idea who he was before you learned how big his boner is?
Probably not, unless you lived in his district. Most of us simply don’t care what politicians do until they get themselves in trouble. And that doesn’t just apply to lower level politicians like Weiner; a survey done during the Lewinsky scandal found that over 80 percent of people could answer questions about the scandal, but less than 25 percent knew Clinton’s stance on healthcare reform, or what important bills he had signed.
Why the disparity? Well for one thing, voters are way more interested in sex than the national debt or trade imbalance. And voting becomes a lot easier when you select a candidate based on whether or not they got caught having anonymous gay sex in a public bathroom, not their foreign policy stances. Scandals make politics simple.
And as much as we complain about politicians who get caught with their pants down, we love to watch the aftermath. We want to see the corrupt politician get what’s coming to him, even if we had no idea who he was beforehand. If politicians were all upstanding and moral we might have a better government, but we’d be too bored with politics to notice.
It’s a Tough Job
No, we’re not suggesting that being a politician is equivalent to being a coal miner or an animal semen collector. Successful politicians earn a huge salary, get all sorts of benefits and can use their connections to land a cushy job when they’re voted out. It’s a pretty sweet gig.
But it has its downsides—no detail of a politician’s personal life is private, and every inane piece of their life history will be dug up by someone looking to ruin them. We’ve even reached the point where we want to know all about a congressman’s colonoscopy.
So if it’s discovered that a politician tried drugs when they were in college, or couldn’t hide a huge boner when they were giving a high school graduation speech, it’s going to make the news. Once it’s a headline their opponents will call it the worst event since the Holocaust, and they’ll forever be saddled with the reputation of being the guy with the high school hard-on. Imagine having to deal with that at your job.
We’re not saying we shouldn’t examine politicians’ personal lives, because we have a right to know if the person who represents us is an alcoholic or a womanizer or gets off on being whipped by midgets. But the next time you see a politician caught staring at Michelle Obama’s chest during a Presidential speech, try to go easy on them—the stress of constantly being in the public eye has caused a huge number of politicians to suffer from mental illnesses.
They’re Probably the Best We’ve Got
Approval of Congress is at an all-time low, but even at the best of times politicians aren’t very popular. Take a random person off the street and he’s more likely than not to claim he could do a better job than an elected official. That’s not all—45% of voters think you could form a better Congress by picking names at random from the phonebook.
Oh, really? Now we have no doubt that you, an enlightened reader of The Smoking Jacket, would make a fine senator. But the average person? Who, statistically speaking, can’t name the three branches of government, the secretary of state, or the Supreme Court justices? Who is more likely than not to fail a basic civics test? Who apparently thinks people still use phonebooks?
Hell, with statistics like that we’re lucky we’re allowed to vote at all. Politicians may not be doing a great job, but if their electorate puts more thought into what KFC combo to get for supper than how the political system works can we really blame them?
It’s gotten to the point where we want politicians to be as dumb as us—it’s now common for candidates to brag about how they don’t have any political experience, so they look like more of an everyman. Yeah, let’s elect the everyman with no experience. That will work out great when we’re negotiating nuclear treaties with North Korea.
We’d Act the Same if We Were Them
We’d all like to think that if we were a politician we’d be incorruptible, but let’s be honest with ourselves. The moment any one of us were offered money to, say, endorse the construction of a sketchy foreign-owned dildo factory instead of one run by hardworking Americans, we’d only pause long enough to calculate how much hookers and blow our kickback would buy.
You might protest and say you’d never betray patriotic American dildo manufacturers, but here’s the thing: you don’t really know if you would until you were in the position to do so. Power does weird things to people, and nobody is immune. In even the simplest of studies, participants who are given the tiniest bit more power than their peers become corrupt and hypocritical.
The problem is that people don’t just see power as something that lets them get away with being douchebags—on some intuitive level they genuinely believe that power makes them entitled to be a douchebag. If we see that effect in studies where people are merely asked to think about being powerful, we should consider ourselves lucky all our politicians haven’t turned into supervillains. We would.