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Consistency in American Politics

I know conventional wisdom says we should not talk about sex, religion or politics but I’m going to go against that wisdom this week to talk about something I observe in American politics that hurts all Americans. The genesis of this post is seeing yet another story about the political fight going on regarding America’s growing debt and the debate on how to handle the debt ceiling crisis.

I’m not big on politics and offer no solutions to our problems. We elect people to solve those problems just like we hire accountants to help us with taxes and lawyers to help answer legal questions. We share our goals with those professionals so they can come up with solutions that best suit us and we essentially do the same with elected representatives.

A big problem with politics stems from the principle of influence known as consistency. This principle tells us people feel internal psychological pressure to remain consistent in word and deed. Normally this is very good because it motivates people to do what they said and adhere to their word. When people don’t follow through we usually look down on them. When I lead a Principles of Persuasion workshop I usually ask participants to describe people who are not consistent and a few words I typically hear include: unreliable, flaky, wishy-washy, and inconsistent. Occasionally someone will go against the tide and say “flexible.”

Rigidly adhering to your word can come back to haunt you if it’s proven your original stance was wrong or circumstance require a change. I’m sure President George Bush Sr. wishes he never uttered, “Read my lips – no new taxes.” When it became clear taxes had to go up he lost all credibility with the American public.

Unfortunately, most American politicians pander to the faithful of their party in order to get elected and in doing so they make public statements in no uncertain terms about what they will or won’t do. They leave no room for change lest they get branded by an opponent as unreliable, flaky, wishy-washy, and inconsistent.

To be sure politicians should have convictions and share those with the public so we can make the best informed decision on who we want to represent us. However, when they dig themselves into positions so deeply that there’s no room for real dialog with the other side and potential compromise for the good of the country then we get what we have now – political gridlock.

Of course each person will tell us they’re just carrying out the wishes of their constituents back home and simply doing what they were sent to Washington to do. As far as I’m concerned that’s a meaningless bunch of drivel! Anyone can use that line to justify nearly any vote they make. It’s analogous to the defense lawyers declaring “the system works” because Casey Anthony got off. The same thing could have been uttered by prosecutors if she had been convicted. If the system works no matter what the verdict then the phrase is meaningless…or maybe the process is!

The following is my opinion only so you can take it or leave it but I still get to write it because it’s my blog. I want elected officials who have one overriding goal, the good of the country. If that means setting aside some ideology so compromise can be reached then so be it. Or perhaps they can start by telling voters what they stand for but that they’re willing to change if necessary for the good of the country.

Next week we’ll get back to the series I’m doing on influence tips for restaurant owners. Until then, thanks for faithfully reading and for allowing me to rant a little this week.

Brian, CMCT
influencepeople
Helping You Learn to Hear “Yes”.