Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Keeping Promises, Managing Expectations

Here’s an interesting article about Obama and his current woes. It stresses that he has actually achieved a lot of his agenda, but is struggling in the polls regardless. And the article hints at the reason for this – when he was elected, he promised the earth and now it comes to delivering, what he has to offer isn’t quite the change people believed in. He failed to manage expectations, and is suffering as a result.

This has always been the charge leveled against populist politicians – they offer a better tomorrow, but when they are elected and tomorrow become today, there’s something lacking in the reality they create. So what has happened recently is politicians have become vague on what they promise. Gone are the concrete policies, presumably in the hope that the electorate won’t be disappointed when either the policies don’t appear, or when those policies do appear and actually turn out to be a bit shit. Instead, politicians try to get our votes through spouting platitudes.

It isn’t just Obama and his claims to represent “Change” and “Hope” – although Lord knows those concepts should have been interrogated more thoroughly before he was handed the keys to the White House. It is also seen in Cameron’s call for change – a meaningless concept without extrapolation. And it was in the rhetoric that dragged Blair into Downing Street – just what does “education, education, education” actually mean? That it was his priority – but his priority to do what? Fuck up first? Fuck up the most? Likewise, “tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime” is meaningless without the “how” – how are you going to be tough on crime and its causes? Furthermore, whenever a politician talks about a big concept like, say, fairness, it is apparently without any inkling that such a concept is relative, and how it will be defined will vary from community to community and, indeed, from individual to individual.

So these empty strap lines and meaningless assertions are meant to make you want to vote for a politician without them actually having to tell you what they will do. But rather than managing the expectations of the electorate, it heightens them. Obama represents change – which the vast majority of people would probably interpret as change for the better. When he delivers the American status quo with just a little bit more state tinkering in some areas (like health care), people are disappointed. Very disappointed. Because that isn’t change. Likewise, Blair’s crime pledge – it sounds like he is going to sort out crime once and for all. When it becomes clear that what he actually plans to do is give various malcontents a meaningless trophy like an ASBO, of course people are fucked off. Particularly when they become the victims of crime themselves.

Saying nothing beyond empty buzzwords is not enough to stop the massive disappointment in politicians when they fail to deliver anything more than the same politics with different personalities presiding over it. The only way in which politicians can effectively manage the expectations of the electorate is to be more honest about what they can, and can’t, do. I’ve said it before but I’ll say it again: the most honest politician – the sort of one that you should trust and consider voting for – will be the one who says “nope, sorry, can’t help you with that”. But whenever a politician waddles on to the political stage spouting meaningless platitudes about hope and change, you should be very suspicious about what they mean by those phrases – if, indeed, they actually mean anything at all.

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At 10:46 am , Anonymous Mr Ecks said...

Obama was always a lying, evil sack of shit. He promised to roll back some of Bush's tinpot tyranny(Homeland, PATRIOT act etc) but has made them worse and now wants the right to murder any US citizen anywhere without due process and with whatever reasons may exist for such a deed declared to be "state secrets".He is, like Bliar, bogus,verbose scum.

At 2:02 pm , Blogger The Nameless Libertarian said...

Well, Obama has been a disappointment from the perspective for Liberty for the reasons you outline, but he is still better than the idiotic Bush.

Mind you, Bush didn't exactly set the bar high with his behaviour in office...


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