I came across a little factoid yesterday that perhaps goes some way to explaining why American voters are feeling abandoned by their politicians.
Former leader of the Senate Republicans Trent Lott, and former Senate Democrat leader Tom Daschle, have come together to write a book identifying ‘now’ as the country’s Crisis Point – the title of the book. In it, they point out (among many, many other things) that a serving Congressman spends around 30 hours a week raising funds for his/her next campaign, and a typical Senator needs to raise $15,000 a day ($5.5 million a year) to have any hope of re-election.
So it seems to me this means that either politicians need to be extremely wealthy in their own right, or that the welfare of their constituents must regularly take second place to their own political aspirations. Either way, with this sort of money in play, it’s virtually inevitable that those playing with it undergo a mental shift regarding what constitutes financial ‘normality’. They don’t mean to, but it’s human nature. We all think ‘normal’ is us, and normality has always been a moveable feast. So for them, it becomes incomprehensible that good, hard-working Americans should be suffering financial hardship.
Furthermore, they think, if they can rise to the top, so can anyone else. This is one of those myths cherished by those who’ve done it. And yes, it’s possible – provided you have the talents, abilities, conmanship or bullshit artistry to take advantage of the particular opportunity that comes your way. But- Surprise! – not everyone has, and opportunity can be depressingly picky about where it chooses to knock.
I’m obviously in no position to know whether American politicians give those they represent a fair go or not. But what does seem obvious is that the amount spent on political campaigns would go a long way towards -say – financing a national health scheme, and the time spent funding the future of individual political careers detracts from the time available to do the job for which they’ve already been elected.