Political Cynicism Close Up

We indulge in political cynicism on a national level because it’s just a fun pastime without really having any personal knowledge of whether candidates mean what they say or are just pandering for a vote.  By the way, I don’t subscribe to Oscar Wilde’s definition of a cynic, “a man who knows the price of everything but the value of nothing,” but rather the fear that some people are motivated to deceive by selfishness. No matter how much we read or hear about national candidates, we don’t really know any of them.

One of my weekly local papers printed a story on its front page about a fellow I know (his name is unimportant) who has announced that he wants to form a coalition to do something about high taxes.  Why this, under any set of circumstances, would merit a front page story is curious, but it is particularly fascinating under the particular circumstances.

A while back, there was a rumor that one of Nassau County’s political parties was looking for a new candidate who they could mold into a contender for the county legislature.  The word was that they needed someone inoffensive, but sufficiently malleable that the person could be easily controlled and manipulated to do the party’s bidding.  Obviously, he could neither be too smart nor too principled, but he would have to be easily flattered so that he want an important position befitting someone of his “stature”.  Oh yeah, and he needed to have enough money to pay the freight.

Wow, did they ever pick the right guy.  A nice enough fellow, well intended, but thick as brick and utterly incapable of understanding a principled position.  He was the sort who extrapolated his financial success in a very peculiar niche business to generalized brilliance, living proof of the Dunning Kruger effect.

With the complicity of the local editor, a story about this fellow appears one day to create the appearance of a deep, abiding concern for the welfare of others because of high taxes.  Now, high taxes have been a monumental problem for 25 years around here, but this fellow has inexplicably discovered it now.  He announced his intention to form a “non-profit” coalition (as opposed to the “for-profit” kind?) of various professionals to come up with a solution.  Of course, the education and skills he seeks for his coalition serve to highlight the fact that he possesses neither. 

But what gives rise to the most virulent cynicism is that this fellow, in a very minor elected position, when he bothers to appear for a meeting (an infrequent occurrence), when he has read anything in preparation for the meeting (an even more infrequent occurrence), and when he has shown any capacity to understand the rather obvious issues at stake (more on the level of a stopped clock), has shown an utter lack of concern for wasting taxpayer money.  “Cost?  Oh, who cares.  Whatever. They can afford it.”  After all, it’s not like it’s his money that he’s spending, right?  No, but he doesn’t even get the connection with wasting money and that he pays taxes too.  I told you he was thick.

And so, the party has started to create a persona of intelligence and caring that is so fundamentally at odds with reality as to make those of us who know this fellow laugh, long and hard.  It’s absurd.  It’s ridiculous.  It’s a total lie.

But it may well work.  You see, only the people who know the truth know the lie.  To everyone else, this fellow will be whatever the story makes him out to be, no matter how crazy it is.  Reality is perception, and creating perception is what sells candidates to a public hoping for someone to come along and deliver on promises of hope and goodwill.

Because I know the person, I know the fabricated persona to be an outright fraud.  But I don’t personally know anyone running for President.  This frightens me greatly.  How many articles like the one in my local paper went into fabricating the persona that now bolsters our candidates? 

2 thoughts on “Political Cynicism Close Up

  1. Josh SN

    Concerning the requirements for a front man, isn’t “having something you can hold over his head” a requirement? Some shady business or personal relationship, perhaps?

    You might even be able to afford a Private Detective to investigate the matter, making sure to point out the link between the puppetmasters (who would know about the moral lapse) and puppet.

  2. SHG

    Loyalty to the party comes in different flavors.  Sometimes it’s a photo of something untoward; other times it’s nothing more than flattering weak self-esteem.  It doesn’t take much to keep a weak person under control.

    As for ways to “expose” the shame, there are many, but who is going to do it?  Who is paying for the private detective?  Who wants to be the bad guy who points out that the would-be emporer is wearing no clothes?  It’s not my fight.  Will the people whose fight it becomes be willing to do the work?  Will they be any better?

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