Friday, 1 June 2018

                   POLITICAL PROMISES

In my opinion, they are no different than an apology of a mass murderer to the families of his victims when he is about to be sentenced.  The word “meaningless” immediately comes to mind.

The head of a terrorist organization (The Palestinian Liberation Organization-PLO)  Yasser Arafat told his representative at the UN headquarters in September 1975, that he would honour his commitment given to me personally to publicly  denounce terrorism and  make sure that no further Palestinians would commit crimes in future Olympic Games beginning with the Games being held in Montreal in 1976.  Arafat kept his word to me.

I promised Arafat that the PLO could have an office in Ottawa (capital city of Canada) if he kept his word to me. He kept his word to me and the government of Canada kept my word to Arafat. Three years later, the PLO had an office in Canada’s capital. It was a first for the PLO.

It is ironic when you think about it. A renowned terrorist’s word was worth more than those of politicians running for office.

Once again, voters have reached that point in the political calendar when major parties draft platforms and promise to adopt them after the election. 

Political Parties have been drafting platforms almost as long as there have been political parties. In parliamentary democracies – such as those in the U.K., Canada, most of Western Europe, Australia, India and elsewhere – parties are stronger organizations than they are in the U.S. In these systems, platforms tell voters what the parties stand for and candidates are bound to adhere to a party’s platform. But that isn’t all the time of course.

In American democracy, parties and candidates have no obligation to follow the party’s platform. The modern American electoral system includes candidate-centered, as opposed to party-centered, campaigns for public office. U.S. candidates use party labels to tell voters where they stand, generally, on issues, but candidates face few consequences for bucking the party line.

In order to understand the role and value of party platforms, we need to understand exactly what American political parties are. Many Americans, about two-thirds of voters, hold a party identification such as Democrat or Republican. But the vast majority do not pay close attention to politics or how parties actually function.

Voters need parties because when voters have a sense of their own personal political attitudes, and a sense of the parties’ positions, voters can use candidates’ party labels to help them figure out who they can vote for – even if they know nothing else about a candidate. Voters who hold a party identification are technically a part of the party, but they are not the people actively building the party.

Platforms play a critical role in helping the diverse coalitions of policy demanders negotiate whose interests are represented in the core party coalition. The platform is useful because it provides the coalition members, and wannabe members, something to bargain over. Without joining, the process of defining the values, policy intentions and members of a party would be even messier than it already is.

Canada’s political system is different. Most of us vote for the Party because the winning Party is the one that is going to govern us.

The promises given to the voters are those of the Party. The candidate is expected to follow the Party line and not deviate from it. 

But are the promises given by a political party really fulfilled after the winning Party is in office?  Sometimes but for the most part, the other promises somehow disappeared in Never Never Land where they are never seen or heard of again.

Why were these phony promises made in the first place?  Politicians are aware that if you want a child to do as you tell that child to do; offer the child a cookie if he or she does what he or she is told to do.

We voters are being treated as children and we are given promises of goodies providing that we do as we are told which is vote for the party making the offer.

Now if you offer a child a cookie providing that the child does what it is told to do and after the child honours the agreement, the parent doesn’t, the child will become very upset.

Once a political party doesn’t honour its promise to us voters, we too get very upset. Alas, by then, it is too late to do anything about it. All we can do is sulk, not unlike the child who also feels that it has been cheated.

Every politician knows that the key to winning elections is to make great promises. These campaigners promise to cure the ills of society including ending government corruption, pollution and yes, lowering taxes just to name a few. 

The size of the elected office seems almost correlated with the size of the promise. Even at the state, provincial or local level, however, politicians in close races will attempt to extract a few additional votes by promising to improve a specific problem that many voters care about the most.

There's no need here to detail the many broken campaign promises given during elections that have accumulated throughout history. To do so would require putting them in a book that would make a New York telephone directory directory look like a two-page pamphlet.

In many ways, voters are the eternal optimists who can't learn from experience. We want to believe that our politicians will improve our lives. But when post-election reality hits, we forget how unrealistic we were in believing that somehow "this time," the outcome would be different.

It may seem that the negative climate in politics has gotten worse in recent years, but broken promises and voter discontent are hardly a 21st century phenomena. It went on in the last centuries also.

Research in marketing psychology provides intriguing insights into why broken campaign promises "hurt us so bad." The effect known as "negative expectancy disconfirmation" has been demonstrated in studies involving consumer products that fail to deliver on their promised effects. According to this research, we have a bias toward being much more angry when a product fails to perform than to be really happy when it lives up to its claims.

What's worse is when one product fails to perform; we move to other similar products. We may even be angry at the advertising agency that marketed the product and also distrust the other products it promotes. We may even go beyond this irrational extrapolation to distrust the competitor's product or very different products from very different firms. In fact, we stop trusting all advertising, period. This in effect applies to respecting politicians. When several politicians make phony promises, we assume that all of them make phony promises when in fact that isn`t necessarily true. Alas, one rotten apple spoils the entire barrel.

If politicians are ever to be able to lead, there will have to be an end at some point to the negative expectancy disconfirmation effect we have about politicians in general. We have to learn to trust again which in my opinion, will be a difficult and painful lesson to take on.  Great leaders require not only the ability to take bold action, but the willingness of citizens to allow them to try to win their elections without having to make wild and unrealistic promises.

In my opinion, hoping that politicians per say will reform and never make promises that are unrealistic is in itself as unrealistic as expecting a retarded child solving a mathematical problem in trigonometry.

If your vote for a political party is based on that Party`s promises and the party reneges on those promises, you have only yourself to blame for helping that Party win the election. 

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