A rather comical term often used to refer to politicians, especially politicians in power, is the word “leader”. Considering the amount of polling now carried out by politicians and political parties, as well as the focus grouping and experts used to weigh up both the wording of announcements and even the policy itself, one often wonders who is leading whom. Politicians live in such fear of election day that they rarely step a toe out of line with the will of their constituency, even when it is necessary. That is, except for some politicians, and except for some issues. There appear to be a select few issues on which a politician’s principles outweigh their ambitions, and on these issues, whether or not you agree with them, you must at least respect the politicians for their backbones.
The example that springs most readily to mind is the issue of Gay marriage. Personally I find opposition to Gay marriage utterly ridiculous, and all over the world, polls show that the tide is overwhelmingly moving in my direction, especially among younger people. However, a small group (or not so small as the case may be) of conservative politicians vehemently oppose the legalisation of same sex marriage, and often any rights for Gay people at all. These politicians do so despite the polls moving against them, and despite the obvious demographic challenge they will face in the future. They are sticking by their beliefs. They are leading the people. Despite what you may think of the actual policy, this is admirable in today’s climate.
But why can these politicians not expand their steadfast convictions to other areas? Politicians are supposed to be better informed, more rational and less vindictive than the mob. They are meant to have the time and the inkling to become experts on issues we are too busy to concern ourselves with, and lead us with their superior knowledge/judgement. They should not be following us we should be following them.
For example, if Angela Merkel were to stand against the tide calling for the ridiculously punitive European debt deals in a similar fashion to what she does on the issue of Gay Marriage, who knows how much better a situation Europe would be in? Would a socialist have been elected in France? Would Greece be such a dogs breakfast? Would much of Europe right now be entering/on the cusp of double dip recession? These points are debatable, but I would say no. The vast majority of recognised economists argued against such severe austerity. It was the mob that so quickly bought into the confidence fairy. If Merkel had had the balls to stand up to her constituency, and followed a similar path to America and Australia, or at the very least, been less punitive in her austerity demands, Europe would not be swirling the drain. Unlike Merkel, we need all the politicians to show the same convictions on every issue that a few of them do on a few of the issues. We need them to lead the people, and not be led by the people.