Arizona Senate Bill 1062
Why Suzy plays the drums
Dad, Mom, and three kids are in a van, driving home from a successful day of soccer. Mom suggests they should get dinner. The kids want to go to Chuck-E-Cheese’s, and Mom wants to go to the Olive Garden. Dad considers his vote.
Dad does not want to go to Chuck-E-Cheese’s — it’s loud and noisy, and the pizza is terrible. But Dad also knows that Mom will veto it. No matter what case he or the kids make, there is no way they are ending up at a place with a ball pit.
Suzy is going to start music lessons. Dad wants her to play drums, and Mom wants her to play piano. Suzy likes both, and is on the fence. Any good-will will help swing her vote one way or the other.
Dad says he wants to go to Chuck-E-Cheese’s. The kids beg and plead, but Mom says no. They pull into Olive Garden grumbling. Mom is the bad guy, and Dad is a sympathetic victim who did his best to help out the kids. Two weeks later, Suzy starts drum lessons.
Welcome to politics.
One dirty aspect of politics is that politicians can, and frequently will, vote for something they don’t really believe in. Like Dad in the story, they are often in a situation where the vote does not matter, so they can vote for what their constituents would like. They pander as a way to gain social capital, and it incurs very little risk.
For example, the Arizona legislature recently passed a bill that allowed businessmen the ability to refuse service based on religious belief. The governor said she would veto it if it passed. The moment she said this, the whole process became trivial. It would be vetoed, and the legislature would not have enough votes to force it through. Done deal. But instead of moving on, the legislature took time to argue about it, make lots of sound bytes, and drag the whole thing out. One side painted it as “anti-gay” and the other side painted it as “pro-freedom.” People from both camps rallied in support or opposition of something that would never see the light of day. Like Dad in our story, they were doing lip service to gain support for things down the road. There is little risk and no downside to saying what people want to hear when it ultimately will not matter.
Both sides do this, and they do it all the time. Pandering and waffling are just tools in the politician’s toolchest. The best spin doctors even half-acknowledge it by saying things like, “Even though I knew it would be vetoed, I wanted to show the Governor that your voices would be heard.” Well, at least until I’m voting on something that might get passed, then I’ll only care about my voice and the voices of the people paying me; but you’ll remember this and reelect me, right?
The pundits and supporters do it too. Are you guilty? Did you say it’s “unamerican” to make fun of the Commander-in-Chief when it was Bush, but make fun of Obama all the time? Did you forward dumb things Bush said to all your buddies, but get pissed off when people do the same with Obama?
We need to stop treating politics like sports. All the teams are terrible, and you should not be proud to wear the colors of any of them. We are the kids in the car, and if we let the politicians continue to pander without repercussion, soon we’ll be playing the drums and not even know why.