(Photographs of politicians below are not intended to imply that the pictured politician is any way corrupt or discredited. Even Trump.)
Donald Trump appears to be on the verge of being named the Republican candidate for President of the United States. While it is unlikely that he will become president, his rise has been amazing, and his appeal surprises many, in the USA and elsewhere.
He has made some astounding promises but it is unlikely that people really believe that he is going to be able to achieve them. However, as a many shared post on Facebook has it, people are really looking more at the direction he is promising to move the country.
Trump is not a politician in the usual way. A politician would normally take great care not to upset people, not to rock the boat as it were. Politicians almost always try not to promise anything, as they might not be able to deliver what they promise and that will harm their re-election chances.
All human interactions involve politics to some extent. When a group of people forms, be it a family or a tribe or a nation and selects one of their number to represent them in an interaction with another group of people, that’s politics.
Human nature being what it is, the representative feels empowered by this responsibility, and often becomes arrogant and domineering. This may or may not result in the representative being replaced by someone else.
However there are advantages in having someone as figurehead in interaction with other groups. The elevation of someone to be the group’s representative can become permanent, with the representative becoming the chief, the king, the emperor. Or even the President of the United States.
Politicians in general do not have a high reputation. Mark Twain once said “Politicians and diapers must be changed often, and for the same reason”. The implication is that while politicians may start off idealistic, they may often come to become arrogant and believe that they are better in some way than the people who gave them the power.
Lord Acton’s dictum often appears to be true of politicians. The more power that they have, the more they consider themselves to be more important than the average man in the street. They may come to believe that they are above the law, and eventually fall foul of it. While power does not directly corrupt, the feeling of importance and the ability to wield power sometimes does.
Politicians do recognise this fact and, if they are sensible, try to avoid this trap. They try to remain “grounded”. They talk about getting back to the roots, keeping in touch and other such phrases, but it is very hard to do this as when they try to interact with those who put them in power, those people treat them as special, and tend to address the role and not the person.
Politicians are overthrown all the time. It may be that they no longer serve the people who selected them, or it may be that they have become arrogant and have been caught doing something illegal or dubious.
Often these peccadilloes are things that would not get a normal person into too much trouble. An insulting email, maybe, or perhaps an affair with a person that the politician works with. Or getting someone to paint the roof, when the politician is in a position to help the painter.
Sometimes, though, the politician takes advantage of their position in ways which are very wrong. Sometimes they accept money to advance someone’s business, or they may divert money to their own bank accounts, when it should be spent to further the aims for which they were selected. They might take holidays overseas or travel to conferences for which their seems little justification.
It’s no wonder then, that people look on politicians with distrust. They are aware of all the temptations that beset politicians and they are aware that such temptations are hard to resist and that some politicians may be corruptible.
That’s why we surround our politicians with laws and rules above and beyond those that apply to the man in the street. We want our politicians to be above reproach, but we know that they are fallible.
But we do not hold them to their promises, which is why Trump can get away with promising that he would build a wall between the United States and Mexico, if he gets elected, when everyone knows that such a wall is very unlikely to be built. Even if it is, illegal immigrants from Mexico to the United States will find ways around it. Or under it. There are already tunnels under the border between the two countries.
The electors in the United States know that Trump’s promises are hogwash, but they like the way that he promises something towards dealing with the problem of illegal immigration. It shows that he is thinking about it, and may well do something.
The same goes for Trump’s promise to prevent Muslims entering the United States for a period. It will never happen, and if it did, it would not be effective, as many potential IS terrorists are already in the country, and such a move would likely persuade them to actively attack the United States from within.
But Trump promises something to deal with the entry of terrorists into the country. Once again, while he probably will not do anything like this, people hope that he will do something.
However, the big thing that Trump has going for him is that he is not a politician, in the sense that he has not had a career in politics, he has not worked his way up in politics. No, Trump has started at the top. Trump is a businessman. If he does get elected he will probably find that his business skills don’t really equip him for a life in politics, and persuading people to go along with his schemes will make herding cats look easy.
After all, in the business world Trump may be able to hire and fire as he wishes, but in government, the other elected representatives cannot be fired and he will need their cooperation. Trump’s (apparent) bullying tactics will not work in government. In some ways it would be interesting to see if he could achieve anything if he were the POTUS.