Sometimes I think I’d like to live in a swing state. I have learned from talking to those who live in them that election season can be draining. Negative ad after negative ad after political fundraiser after polling phone call can certainly seem excessive. At the same time, however, the voters in those states are often the benefactors of some hefty political pampering. Free food, media coverage of local businesses, market injections to the local economies when big names visit, and special attention to the community’s needs can’t be all that bad. Rather, it seems that this election-driven coddling is a sample of how the public often benefits from politicking more than we realize…or would like to admit.
To preface this consideration, I concede that politics can be a nasty, unforgiving, and inconsiderate business. Many voting blocs are exploited, pestered, and offered unattainable promises. Latinos and women, in particular, have been relentlessly pursued this election. When it comes down to it, however, the nasty business of politics should be treated as such – a business. This can be a beautiful thing – perhaps even something our Founding Fathers intended – because constituents (consumers) possess what politicians (businesses) want the most: votes (money). When voters make politicians compete, just as when consumers make businesses compete, voters win.
Take, for example, the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. The Wednesday morning following the hurricane, news sources flaunted photos of Republican New Jersey Governor Chris Christie walking arm in arm with President Obama. According to each politician’s statements and tweets, Hurricane Sandy has pulled together the nation in a spirit of goodwill and cooperation to help those in need.
On October 29, President Obama declared and tweeted:
The great thing about America, is that during tough times like this, we pull together.
Similarly, when asked about the visits of presidential contenders to his state following the effects of Sandy, Governor Christie replied:
If you think right now I give a damn about presidential politics, then you don’t know me.
While I believe that both Presidential candidates as well as Governor Christie genuinely feel for the hurricane’s victims and are working to help relieve their suffering, I would argue that the detailed work and attention given to this disaster have certainly not been harmed by the proximity of the election – quite the opposite.
In a recent Hill article, Niall Stanage somewhat cynically, somewhat accurately describes how, as a Republican governor of a democratic state, Governor Christie is cooperating with President Obama in the aftermath of Sandy because he must. Christie, though he has endorsed Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, has praised President Obama’s post-Sandy efforts and even hosted the President, arm in arm, on a tour of New Jersey’s damaged areas. Yes, this is likely goodwill and sincere concern, but it is also good politics. Anything less than a solid performance in handling Sandy’s devastation could cost Christie his gubernatorial race in 2013, his potential presidential candidacy in 2016, and could cost president Obama his reelection in just a few days. NeW’s thoughts and prayers go out to the victims of Hurricane Sandy and we hope for a speedy recovery, but thanks to the politics of cooperation, politicians won’t have it any other way.
So what does this mean? It means that this election, voters, especially those in the “popular” voting blocs (e.g. women), should feel empowered. Rather than feel annoyed, frustrated, and disenchanted with political pandering, voters should feel in control. Rather than grow apathetic toward candidates groveling at our feet, rather than assume the victim role in an election that exploits pressing issues (e.g. women’s issues), and rather than blame the partisanship of the system, voters should milk the politicking for all its worth. Women, in particular, should recognize that we are at the forefront of this election, and the candidates are listening. And we should take advantage of the fact we have their ear to talk about the issues that are important to the nation.
When Americans grow frustrated with the political process, we must remember that we, as voters, are in charge. When we throw up our arms and rhetorically ask “Cooperation in Congress?” we should recall the Honorable David E. Skaggs’ sagacious words:
It’s in our constitutional DNA.
In other words, our Founding Fathers designed our country’s government to rely on cooperation. Even if this cooperation is driven by political self-interest, our governmental system, though not perfect, channels the unceasing politicking into public benefit. This November, we voters should use the political pandering to our advantage – and there is plenty to use!