A political career these days is nothing but marketing to turn a person into a brand. It’s not about policies or making the world a better place or even representation. It’s about building a brand that will have value long after the political career ends. And it’s a little bit about power and, to those who have it, it’s a drug worth any amount of money.
We all know power, to some people, is the ultimate upper. So I won’t talk about power and politics today.
Politicians do not work for their salary. They work, and creating and maintaining an image or brand is hard work. But what they are working for is what comes after their tenure as a elected official. Their salary is a pittance compared to the much more lucrative jobs awaiting them when they emerge back into the private sector.
Who do you think has more power and more money; the Senator or the private lobbyist representing corporate America? Hint – you didn’t elect the winner of this race in the last election, though maybe you did in the one before that.
It is illegal to bribe a politician. And politicians are under extreme scrutiny so it’s getting harder to get away with an outright bribe. Someone’s going to notice if your 4th cousin, three times removed, is attending college on an obscure “scholarship” or if the new roof you put on your house cost a little less than the one on the neighbor’s house. But no one’s going to even blink when hundreds of thousands if not millions show up in your campaign accounts.
The political campaign is where the money flows a little more freely. As a politician you can pay yourself to campaign an amount equal to the lesser of either the job you are running for or the job you quit to campaign. You can also use campaign money to improve your personal image by buying clothes and meals while going around and talking about yourself. The tour buses these guys ride in aren’t cheap either. That is when they aren’t flying on donated jet-time. And even that can be under scrutiny if the economy is bad. But, time and time again, it’s been proven that money makes campaigns succeed.
A politician’s post-political career depends on them having had at least a moderately successful political career. They need to win a few elections to land the choice jobs as lobbyists. Politicians do make good lobbyists. They understand how things work and know exactly what buttons to press to get other politicians to see things their way. And for a little while after leaving the public life, they are somewhat familiar with the people holding important offices.
Politicians’ salaries are fixed and finite. Lobbyists do not have a salary cap.
There is also no salary cap on book deals.
Don’t let this deter you from voting for the person who most closely represents your views. But never think for a second you are voting for an idealist. Politicians are not idealists. An Idealist would be sickened to learn just how much it is really money and power. Politicians are a brand, who find a niche in the market and fill it. Oh, this state doesn’t have a left leaning hypocrite on the ballot, that’s a niche that an aspiring politician will fill. That district needs a right leaning hypocrite – someone will fill that niche too. The niche provides the core voters. It’s then a race to sell the person to the people in the middle or to convince the people on the other side that the race is hopeless.
The human psyche is easily manipulated and there is a small but significant number of people that will vote for whomever they think will win. As a politician the perceived edge in the race is invaluable.
There are some very publicized issues that will never move forward politically. Lawmakers will propose laws to forward the issue, knowing it will either lose in the vote or get shot down in the courts. But they can be the hero to the cause for trying.
The issues do not matter. In the long run, there are two things that are certain. The country will move progressively. And it will do so by going two steps forward and one step back, then repeat.