Archives for posts with tag: politics

This well-known saying often attributed to French lawyer and politician Alexandre Auguste Ledru-Rollin, highlights the balancing act required of politicians in our society but the behaviour of some, begs the question;

Are they truly our representatives or do they dance to their own tune?

In a representative democracy, politicians are sent to parliament or congress to put forward the views and aspirations of the people who elected them but once there, they must make laws for all citizens and there is where the problems can begin.

In most countries, elections are only held every 3-4 years so there is an inevitable lag between voter intent and political action, yet in the 21st century, the mood of the public has never been more evident to those in power. There are polls almost daily that seek to take the temperature of the electorate and these have shown that in most Western nations, the broader public has consistently proven to be ahead of governments on key social and even geopolitical issues, so why it is that more than a few elected representatives seem to be actively pulling in the opposite direction?

The 2016 election ‘circus’ in the US was ample evidence of this phenomenon with some candidates putting enormous effort in to being as far from the ‘mainstream’ (i.e. rational thinking) as possible but it is also apparent in Australia at present, where polls indicate that an important civil rights issue due to be put before a national referendum will pass with a significant majority, yet a number of politicians have already announced they will vote against the proposal, even if the nation votes in favour of it.

In a country where voting is compulsory and participation is close to 100%, the intent of the people is rarely in doubt, so how does their personal agenda even warrant a mention?

Notwithstanding that post the next election these folks will likely be unemployed,  there is in their behaviour, a cautionary note for us all. The GFC has painfully brought home the lesson that when people are entrusted with our money or granted authority over us, we must actively take an interest in what they are doing and saying and if they seem to be acting in their own interests rather than ours, we must hold them accountable.

As the old Russian proverb goes: “Trust but verify”. To do otherwise is asking for trouble.

The message for leaders? Staying in touch with your customers and your people is critical. If you are not paying attention they may change direction and you will be left running after them, trying to figure out what went wrong…

 

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Leaders can often find themselves in difficult positions. Circumstances may dictate a change of direction, re-evaluation of an approach or a change in a program for the benefit of the business and of course, some people will complain if it is not explained properly and some will complain regardless but this is not usually a big deal and it is mostly business as usual within a short time. Spare a thought however, for politicians. (What?  Sympathy for pollies?) Well think about it – we elect them to represent us and our wishes in a general sense, in the management of our country, state or city but life in the public arena can make you a big target. As I watch the US election process and to a ‘less strange’ extent ours here at home, I find myself noting that we can sometimes put our leaders in an impossible situation.

If they make a campaign promise which because of political opposition or economic circumstances cannot be fulfilled, they are a ‘promise breaker’ and not to be trusted. If they change their mind following a vigorous debate or public opposition they are a ‘flip flopper’ and not to be trusted. If they press on to execute a decision that has now become unpopular they are arrogant or indifferent to the public’s wishes and not to be trusted. If they should have a lapse of character or judgement they are not worthy of public office but that begs the question: Can you hold public officials to a higher standard and if so, what is that standard? Surely as our representatives they represent us in more ways that numbers. They are also representative of our beliefs, feelings on matters, likes and dislikes and national character and – as they are human – our flaws… That is, they are likely to fall in the normal range of behaviours that can be expected from the public at large but when they do we want them strung up and at the same time their story splashed all over the media and repeated for as long as they are in office

I believe that we are often too harsh in our assessment of our elected representatives. If we are continually critical when unpopular but essentially correct decisions are made, we risk driving them into a position where they make only politically acceptable decisions and we end up getting nothing done and the country suffers. (See the recent US challenge with attempting to reduce their deficit.)  Sometimes painful and unpopular choices have to be made for the long-term good and leaders have to stick to their guns despite the opposition and the damage it may do to their re-election chances – but isn’t that why we elect them?