“Why do we elect some of these people to the glory of high office?” asks Graham Archer. “Is it really possible that we can be won over by an air-brushed poster photograph and a meaningless slogan?”
I suppose we are all entitled to get angry and give vent to our innermost feelings from time to time. After all, isn’t freedom of expression amongst the entitlements one expects in a democracy?
I remember once being in the company of a politician – a member of the Oireachtas elected to Dáil Éireann by good folks just like you and me. It was a time of political stress, similar to the present time. Plucking up my courage, I said to him, “I’m pissed off with politicians.” (Something must have been going down that, to my mind, was less that kosher).
Without missing a beat, he retorted: “I know exactly what you mean…I feel the same. I’m pissed off with people.” That was a reply I wasn’t expecting.
Probing his response, the thing that angered him about us – you, me and the rest of us – was the fact that we, Joe Public, appear to set very low standards when it comes to choosing our politicians.
In other words, how could we ever complain about the poor standards of performance we get from our elected representatives when we elect people who are known to be guilty of poor standards? At this point in my tale, the late George Colley TD’s reference to “low standards in high places” comes to mind.
And those were indeed the days of low standards in high places. At that time, elected colleagues occupying seats beside my politician friend in Leinster House included those who had been accused of tax dodging, telephone bugging, and bribery and corruption. Was it any wonder, therefore, that he was pissed off with people? I could see his point.
You might say that times have changed, that we have become much more aware of these things, that we are far more discerning when it comes to casting our votes. But have we?
I think not. Just look at the opinion polls. Examine closely the polling patterns in recent EU and Council elections. While none of us would ever wish to live next door to a person who could pull the trigger, many of us think nothing of voting for those who’ve rubbed shoulders with those who did.
Let it be said that I am not a shining example of discernment when it comes to doling out my preferences. Like everyone else, I have given a No.1 to the feisty performer – or to the candidate with the attractive photograph and the glib slogan.
Of course, politicians know what a fickle and superficial lot we are. At every election, they offer themselves as candidates for some of the very highest offices – promoted only by a poster with an air-brushed photograph and a meaningless slogan.
Like fools, we give these hopefuls our No.1 vote, sending them on their way with our best wishes. Generally we know little or nothing about them…who they are, what their beliefs are, what they stand for, and what it is that they propose to do.
In my own constituency, I was guilty of electing a TD who, having since received correspondence from me, has failed ever to respond, even to tell me to “F off”. The problem is, five years must pass before I can correct my error. Humorously, I contrast his lack of interest with that of his predecessor who, on the one occasion I wrote to him, replied forthwith and entered my name on his newsletter mailing list, which he sends me all too frequently. You just can’t win.
In recent elections, we saw political arrogance at work on the grand scale – arrogance reflected in the average candidate’s belief that a message as puerile as ‘Working for You’ or ‘Against Austerity’ should be sufficient enticement for us to vote them into offices that pay so handsomely and which carry such little day-to-day responsibility or oversight. With slogans like ‘Reject Water Charges’ some even appealed to us on issues that they know could not be reversed.
The politician who told me he was pissed off with people was the very one who, when I asked him to explain to me why it is that there so many gobshites in Dáil Éireann, replied: “Sure somebody has to represent the gobshites”.
How right he was. Ever since, I’ve been haunted by the fear that I might be one.
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