Why do some people get elected and others don’t? Outside of the obvious answer of (more votes), there are oodles of books, articles, and dissertations, trying to answer that question. In fact, some people’s entire career is spent being hired as a consultant to a campaign because they are an ‘expert’ on getting people elected. They will usually have a very good track record as evidenced by the other candidates they’ve helped to elect. Even though there is so much information on how to get people elected, some people still decide to check one candidate’s box over the other based on attraction or maybe to be part of history.
Once the politician becomes an elected member of government (at any level), they are then faced with decisions, decisions, and more decisions. Depending on how high they are in the pecking order of the government, they may have more decisions or less decisions. Most of these decisions that I’m talking about refer to voting, specifically on pieces of legislation. As politicians vote on pieces of legislation, members of the press will inform the general public as to how certain politicians have voted on certain issues. Because of this cycle where the information is disseminated to the public, sometimes, politicians will vote against their conscience, for the sole purposes of “pleasing” the public, so that they can get reelected.
While many people will understand a politician’s desire to get reelected, I wonder if they maybe aren’t doing the public a disservice by going against their conscience and I think this stems all the way back to how it is that politicians are elected. Because candidates are all fancied up by their consultants (mostly because this is what the consultants think the public wants to see), rarely do candidates ever really talk about how they actually feel about one issue or another. So, once they get elected and have to vote on something, instead of having the confidence to vote on what they believe, instead, they vote in a way that they know will make them favorable for reelection.
I think that part of the problem here is that in the cycle of disseminating the information from vote to the people, the information is disseminated in such a way that can paint a particular politician in a certain light. I doubt that this is done in a malicious intent (at least not intentionally), but even still, the public viewing/reading said report would then regard the politician negatively even though they might actually agree with how the politician voted. More than that, when the politicians vote a certain way on a bill because they’re worried about reelection, I think that they may really be catering to a smaller minority of people (based on sets of poll numbers fed to them by consultants).
There are many different reasons to elect one person to an office over another, but somewhere high (if not at the top) of that list should be about their decision-making ability. I don’t mean whether they can pick apples or oranges from the supermarket, rather, how it is that said person comes to a decision. I think it is impossible to know the sorts of issues that will arise during one’s term in an office, so instead of electing someone based on their views of long-standing issues, I think it’s better to elect someone because one trusts in the inherent ability of the candidate to make effective decisions.
If you're interested in some more first-person accounts of why people vote, here are two good links:
Freakonomics: Why Do You Vote?
Create Debate: Why Do You Vote?
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