Saturday, May 10, 2008

How To Climb Out Of The Single-Issue Rathole by Anthony McCarthy

The first step is to admit that you’re in a rathole.

It is generally understood that a politician needs to sell themselves to the voters in order to win an election and, so, be a real instead of a failed politician. And they do sell themselves, they have no choice. Political offices being a rare item, they need to sell themselves high. In our national politics, to 50% of the voters + 1, at the cheapest. Any lower, they find another job*. It’s a pretty sordid way of putting it, but we are talking about one of the more sordid aspects of real politics, who actually wins and who doesn’t. Keep in mind this isn’t a simple transaction. The number of votes you offer has to not be more than a politician will lose from another bidder if they take your offer.

In a piece posted two years ago, I tried to illustrate in schematic terms what a politician has to do to figure out what group of voters is going to be a good risk and which ones are a total loss. I hope that it is noticed that in the end I go into what a very small interest group has to do to increase their strength in order to promote their issue. That might be the most important part of the post.

Another way to look at this is that a small group of voters has to sell their cause to the politician they want to support them. If they refuse to do that out of some airy-fairy notion of principle, there are other groups, some larger, that won’t have that scruple. The left, not generally having the funds necessary to practice money politics, our currency for this transaction is the number of votes you can offer the politician.

You might grouse and snivel about how unprincipled that competing group is and what a cur of a sell-out the politician is but, I assure you, that will make absolutely no difference to either one of them if they win an election. In politics, winning is the key to everything, being in on a compromise is the main door that it opens. You refuse to do what is necessary to get the key, you are shut out. You refuse to get to the table where compromise is made, you lose it all.

* Percentages vary in those rare cases when there are more than two viable candidates or when a spoiler throws it to the weaker of the two real candidates.