Problem with US Politics = Politicians?

After reading this quote:

in this thread , I got to wondering just how much of today’s (and in the past) problems with the way the country’s run are due to the nature of being a politician instead of particular political parties and their ideologies?

I mean, if they weren’t so determined to get re-elected, they might actually do the right things on occasion- being a congressman or senator is not completely about being absolutely representative of your constituency.

Is the fundamental problem with US politics caused by the very nature of being a politician?

It’s a fundamental design problem (“It’s not a bug, it’s a feature!”) of representative democracy. Our leaders are people who are good at getting elected; the qualities essential to that are not necessarily the same as the qualities that make a good leader or governor or policy-former.

Can’t see anything can be done about that, unless we want to try something other than representative democracy.

I was actually wondering about fairly severe term limits as a way to mitigate some of the problems- if every second-term politician is a lame duck, then he’s not going to be able to make a career out of it (which IMHO, is a good thing), and nor is he likely to do things strictly to get re-elected.

It just strikes me that of all the people I’ve known, only the assholes and/or tools seem to have any interest in becoming involved in politics, with the more assholic and toolish as the only ones expressing interest in politics as a career. Usually, the people I’d want running things want nothing to do with it, because the people who get involved in politics are so false and sleazy.

I can’t help but wonder if there is a solution that would incentivize the right people to become involved, and dissuade the assholes from becoming involved.

We need a specialized occupational category of career politicians. Every modern, industrialized democracy does. Government is a very complicated business, and like any such, should be left primarily to experienced specialists. We could [url=http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/showthread.php?t=310125]choose Congress by a random lottery of all registered voters – but if we did that we wouldn’t have a Congress, we would have a focus group; it would be incompetent to do anything but vote up-or-down on the executive’s proposals.

Sorry, flubbed link.

That isn’t the same thing as term limits, though.

Count me as one of them crazies who think that term limits would be a good thing. If congressmen and senators don’t have to worry about getting re-elected (A.K.A. doing what makes specifically their constituents happy) they could do what is best for the nation as a whole.* At the very least they’ll know that they have to live with whatever laws they pass.
*Meaning, of course, they’ll do what they think is best for the nation as a whole.

Don’t we, in practical terms, have that now? After all, most politicians have been at it for years. Turnover is very low in Congress. The frightening thing is, that may be all for the best. :stuck_out_tongue:

I don’t object to term limits so long as they’re not lifetime limits. E.g., you can serve two terms in Congress and then you have to sit out the next term – but you can always run again later. That provides for turnover and eliminates the grossly unfair electoral advantage of incumbency, but we still have career politicians. During your time-out period you can always serve in your state legislature or something.

Why do people always think that if the need to get reelected was gone, all that would be left would be good intentions?

Holding political office provides a great many opportunites for corruption and graft. Without the motive to get re-elected, you don’t even need to be discrete about it any more.

True. But at least the most important form of corruption in modern politics – the entirely legal solicitation of campaign contributions for the next election – would be eliminated.

Of course, adopting the French system* would achieve the same result.

*In France, candidates are not allowed to buy advertising time. All TV stations are required by law, as a public service, to provide each candidate in a given election with equal air-time, for free.

Regarding campaign-finance reform, see the following threads:

That’s an interesting idea BG, and one that I haven’t heard or though of yet. The one thing about politics that really bugs me is the huge incumbancy rate of the US congress.

Which one? Non-lifetime term limits, campaign finance reform, or structural political reforms to promote a multiparty system?

None of which, of course, would really resolve the fundamental problem I mentioned in post #2; but they would help immensely.

The major problem with adopting the ‘French system’, is the fact that there are often many candidates running from many parties, but the only ones with any real chance of getting elected are the democrats and republicans.* How would that be dealt with? Only give TV ad space to the dems’ & 'pubs?
*Why this is and if it ought to be that way are the matter for another debate, of course.

No. Give equal time to every candidate who qualifies for the general-election ballot. (Which, in most cases, will be only the Republicrats because our ballot-access laws are extremely unfair, but that’s another discussion.)

The problem isn’t with the pols, it’s with the people. As long as the voters don’t demand a good government, they aren’t going to get one. What incentive, for example, does Congress have to balance a budget when all they hear is “cut my taxes” in one ear and “bring my pork” in the other? The system is producing politicians whose one skill is getting votes rather than providing inspired leadership. As long as votes can be cherry-picked by easy sound bites on things like abortion, gun control, and flag burning, the more substantive issues will never be addressed. The politicians are merely giving the public the things that win their votes.

Going by memory from one of George Carlin’s routines:

Or…

They could sell their votes on the theory that they’d better get their piece of the pie while they can. Besides, no need to worry about answering for a vote that blatantly serves a special interest. You won’t have to face reelection!

Unintended consequences abound.

But that, at least, would be illegal. (See post #10.)