Political posturing largely revolves around ruminating on poll numbers and public support. At least on TV, and in the Newspapers, that is. Day by day, we bear witness to policy opponents excoriating politicians for not heeding the will of the people, and supporters pleading for their side to keep the course. Politicians, themselves, capitalise on election wins, claiming a “mandate from the people”, the opposition, meanwhile, highlight any drop in primaries or polls, they demand fresh elections and policy approaches, claiming a loss of legitimacy. When the public support them, politicians never shut up about it, however, when they don’t, politicians either ignore them or tout their bravery and leadership. Honestly, I am getting utterly fed up with this. Something needs to change.
I am generally not someone who supports blindly following the will of the majority. My ideal government structure would be one that melds technocratic and pragmatic ideals, and one that allows leaders to respond effectively in this hyper-connected and fast-changing world, while still having ultimate control rest in the hands of the people. A democracy with many levels of undemocratic elements, allowing politicians to make rational rather than popular choices, something close to the Republicanism espoused by the American Founding Fathers. However, that is not the system most countries have, even America. We all live in “Representative democracies”. We live in societies in which our representatives should be voting along the lines of our wishes. However, they don’t. They vote along party lines, and, occasionally, along the lines of their own ideology and “consciences”. Public support, expressed through elections and polls, has become nothing more than a political prop. Bandied about happily when it supports a position, vehemently denied and ignored when it doesn’t. Politicians expect their opponents to change their tune when the public is against them, yet do no such thing themselves. This is base hypocrisy. This is ridiculous.
There are many great examples of the dissonance over populist issues. It is present all over the world. In Australia, the Liberal-National Coalition has made a meal of how unpopular the newly implemented “Carbon” and “Mining Resources Rent” Taxes are. Tony Abbott has all but launched a crusade against these two issues solely on their unpopularity. I make no comment on their effectiveness as policies, and I admit they are deeply unpopular, however, while the Coalition excoriates the Government over refusal to heed the will of the people, the same Coalition refuses to change their stance on same-sex marriage, despite its broad public support. The Labor Party, meanwhile, after having criticised “Work Choices” and the “GST” on populist grounds, have implemented these equally hated Taxes. Rank hypocrisy? In America, the Democratic Party pushed through an unpopular Healthcare Bill, while at the same time criticising the Republican Party (both in Congress and in the States) for creating unpopular legislation on voting, unions, abortion, contraceptives and immigration. On the other hand, the Republican Party refuse to accept popular Gun Control measures, same-sex civil unions, immigration legislation, and cuts to the Defense Budget, all the while pushing for deeply unpopular tax cuts for the wealthy. Again, Rank hypocrisy?
There are a few things that can be done about this, but most involve the media becoming tougher. For starters, politicians should be called out whenever they say things like “The Australia/American/British/German/whoever want”. The media should only let the Politicians get away with such statements when they have proof that a vast majority of the public do support that proposition. But what’s more, the media companies should stop allowing politicians to so blatantly flout poll numbers only when it suits them. After all, especially in Australia, most respected polls are paid for, and run, by the Media, not the political parties. The politicians need to be forced to either follow the will of the poll’s at all times, or quit using them altogether.
This is not a partisan issue. All politicians and political parties are guilty of this crap. To the politicians, the will of the people is all well and good, when the people agree with the position of the politician that is. Otherwise they are irrelevant. As I have said, I am not a fan of the current iteration of Democracy, on the whole I think Politicians should do what’s best not necessarily what’s popular, however, as long as we are going along with this farce, let’s go all the way shall we?