As we head into another legislative session, everyone is getting their ‘game face’ on, and by ‘game face’ I mean ‘fake face.’ They’re stretching their arms for those ever-so-delicate handshakes, you know the ones I’m talking about…where you grasp one hand and embrace the elbow of the opposite person with the other hand. The phony smiles and the awkward photo ops. All of it is upon us.
But I can’t stand it. It’s something I struggle with significantly in politics. The schmoozing and the deceit. Part of it is my inability to filter thoughts before they exit my mouth and part of it stems from my idealistic nature, but I find the schmoozing to be dishonest and deceptive. I recognize that you can’t just go barreling through every GOP meeting and Facebook argument letting every single person know how much you truly dislike them – or more likely, something they are doing, (and certainly not everyone needs to be Coomered,) but at what point is the cordiality detrimental to the process?
At political events, I like standing in the back of the room watching people interact. You’ll see someone hug it out, smile and exchange conversation about the wonderfulness of each other and both will walk away rolling their eyes only to do the same thing to the next person. Yet both think there is a mutual friendship. Based on what?
People in politics are mean and we know this. We often times treat each other terribly for no good reason. Pre-conceived notions, looks, newness, affiliations and friends, or sometimes ‘just because’ all determine how people are harshly judged in politics. We’re all guilty of it because it’s part of the game, right? But friendships have no foundation and everyone is shocked when both the relationships and the process crumble.
My problem is that The Game is exhausting. The Game has come to the point of stagnation and because of The Game, you can’t defeat that awful legislator with deep pockets because even his greatest enemies funnel money to the campaign war chest (mind blown – by the way) and The Game is why folks are blindsided on Election Day or at conventions because ‘everyone said they would vote for me.’
The game also dictated the point at which it became socially unacceptable to politely, to their face, tell an elected official that you don’t like their vote or their legislation. Most level-headed people understand that telling them so doesn’t mean they have to change how they think, but we don’t even talk about talking about it because this talking is not allowed. The Game is truly why we cannot have nice things.
Internet articles and blogs have certainly changed things and there are some elected officials- party and political- who welcome dissent because they believe it makes them better, but most in the process hate any dissent and consider it a grave threat. They’re forgetting every coin has two sides.
I admit every day that my idealism gets me in trouble more than some might think and I am mostly proud of that. I’ve always said it’s my starting point because when we start in the middle, we all lose. But I also expect better because I’ve seen it in action. I know it seems I sometimes harp on what seems to be ‘the obvious’ but when someone is not pointing out ‘the obvious’, everyone is just standing around pretending ‘the obvious’ isn’t there, twiddling their fingers, continually taking the long, twisted path to exit the maze when there is a direct route.
People in politics – and even those not in politics – understand that no politician or activist is the same. Voters are not the same. People think differently and it’s the compromising ‘middle ground’ part that’s hard. In a debate yesterday, someone told me, ‘Well, that’s the best we are going to get.’ I’m not stupid. I know that, but it doesn’t mean I have to like it. It doesn’t mean I have to enjoy lukewarm day-old oatmeal with no cinnamon. So I’m going to keep asking for better tasting oatmeal so people don’t get accustomed to serving the Wal-Mart brand. (The Wal-Mart brand being the dishonest “gaming” brand, if I lost you in that analogy.)
Tell me: What’s more respectable than honesty? What’s more valuable than knowing where you stand with someone? What’s more freeing than clearing the air with someone with whom you have tension? What’s more honorable than having the guts to tell someone directly why AND how you think?
Perhaps if we offered a little more honesty, we would see a little more honesty out of the process.