July 2018

It is widely known that today’s Congress has the same approval rating as herpes. In truth, politicians have never ranked high in anyone’s estimation. Why?

To understand let’s consider how someone gets a position in politics. In most jobs you submit a resume and go to an interview where you extol your experience, education, and credentials. You offer no opinion on the other candidates. In politics, it’s the opposite.

You may offer some platitudes about your suitability for the position, but the majority of the time you paint your opponent as the devil’s spawn, with the character of a boll weevil, and the empathy of Jack the Ripper. Meanwhile, your opponent is doing the same to you.

And once in office, there is not much you can do to improve your reputation.

Representatives have little opportunity to make a mark. Each is only one of 435. Around half their constituents may appreciate them, but most are just a statistic to the rest of America. Senators (one in a 100) are in a similar boat. So it is the rare member that even has an opportunity to rise above the herd.

And of the ones who do get name recognition, half of the people who hear of them are predisposed to think they are second-rate human beings. Consider Mitch McConnell’s approval among liberals and Nancy Pelosi’s among conservatives. Then add in that the extremists on both sides, who can’t stand their own party’s ‘establishment’, are second to none in tearing down their own party’s leaders. It is no wonder congressional ratings are dismal.

Then along came Reagan. He ran on a platform claiming that government was the enemy of the people. That politicians weren’t the solution to the problem, they were the problem. Which was striking chutzpah as the man himself was a creature of government. Regardless he did more than anyone to promote disgust in the institution.

Even politicians as ingrained in the political establishment as Newt Gingrich made political hay by trashing government into every microphone.

It gets worse. Politicians lie. Mainly because they don’t suffer any consequences for it. When things don’t work out they blame the other party and accuse it of ‘obstruction’ — or bad faith negotiations. Nobody is happy.

And here’s my final point. In every other business experience, education, credentials, and ability are keys to success. But in politics, while representatives have a wide range of backgrounds, particularly the law, there are very few economists. And yet they all think they are experts on taxes, employment, and inflation. There are very few scientists — but they’re all ‘experts’ on global warming. They invariably sound dumb.

And if one of these politicos should hang around long enough to acquire some expertise he will be smeared as an ‘insider’ who has ‘lost touch’ with the people back home. Experience is considered an asset in most lines of work. In politics, it’s used as a whipping stick.

Challengers take pride in their ‘traditional values’ and ‘common sense’. But most are guilty of the Dunning-Kruger effect, in which people who know very little are obstinately convinced they know a lot. It’s not what people look for in their doctor, but this braggadocio is appealing to many voters.

And when you think it can’t get any worse, along comes Trump.

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