The Political Popularity Contest

Politics, for all practical purposes, is a popularity contest. Elected officials try to find a pulse of what they think their constituents want and cater to that. Right now, it is my opinion if you get out of the capitol for at least 15 minutes, it’s pretty obvious that a lot of folks are exhausted and plum fed up. I’m not talking about online scribes either, it’s obvious if you listen that your average citizen is pretty much done.

And those are just the ones paying attention. Not everyone does and when I have conversations with people right now, there main mantra is

Paris Landing Bridge

“I’m voting for the other guy.” They aren’t talking party lines or Tea Party rhetoric, they just want basic needs that our government should be taking care of.

We’ve dealt with a great deal of narcissism from many of our elected officials in the 106th General Assembly. Then there are others that work quietly behind the scenes, introducing legislation that is reasonable, but you don’t hear much from them because they are working at what we elected them to do. Of course, they don’t get the headlines and those are the folks most likely at risk in this year’s election.

I was talking with an elderly gentleman last week who worked in local politics for years. He cited that the tone had changed in the last couple of decades.

“There has always been a discourse in politics,” he said. “Now, because of 24/7 news and all the commentary attached to it, I don’t know fact from fiction. I just want to know the news. I want to know what’s going on and I’m just not getting that.”

And there in lies the problem. Regular folks just trying to get through the day don’t know fact from fiction. They just know things are scary right now. They know that they are sacrificing certain aspects of their quality of life, and they are tired. The average person knows the difference between a photo op and actual work, because they work hard.

They don’t feel like their elected officials are doing the same and their sick and tired of not seeing progress.

Because there is a great deal of anti-government sentiment from different factions of voters who don’t always have information, politicians aren’t very popular right now. I’m not talking about anyone in particular, but politics as a whole. During the floods, we recognized here at Speak to Power that people were hungry for information. Not everyone is online, as we’ve noted before, however how can someone read the always fabulous Tom Humphrey or Jackson Baker on both the positive and negative elements in the legislature if they don’t have the Internet and live clear across the state? It’s not like that can go an pick up a copy of the Memphis Flyer in Knoxville or vice versa. Television isn’t much better with satellite companies showing, let’s say, northwest Tennesseans news channels from Missouri, Kentucky and Illinois? This is important, especially in more isolated areas who basically hear nothing from their representatives or senators until election time.

“Why should I give these folks a vote?” my friend said.

BP’s public relations could be compared to politics as well. People are getting out their torches and shovels to bang the court of public appeal on how BP isn’t communicating properly. The corporate bubble is much like the political bubbles created in state capitals and in Washington. Let’s remember, BP is trying to stop the flow of oil so they can use that rig again when I’m sure they could kill it and move on. BP wants to save a well so they can make more money, the Gulf Coast be damned.

The public has figured that out.

Candidates know it’s a popularity contest. They know they need votes from average citizens, but they also may not know that everyone is fed up. You can sit in rooms and spin a story all you want to, but Joe and Jane aren’t necessarily buying it right now.

What they see is wasted time and opportunities and average Tennesseans are losing their patience. If folks would get out of the bubble, they’d see this for themselves.

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