This is why we can't have nice things

Alex Himelfarb considers what we want, what we’ve got and what we need.

Politicians and their professional advisors learn quickly that we don’t much like our leaders to bring us bad news. Bad news is bad politics. They learn too that it can be political suicide to propose more taxes or to stand up for public servants or to defend the human rights of those we don’t much like. They learn that playing to our growing distrust of government is easier than rebuilding that trust. And federal leaders learn very quickly the risks of taking on issues that create jurisdictional friction or regional conflicts. Politicians need to win if they are to govern and they either learn what it takes to win or they disappear.

And so we get the politics we deserve, or is this, more accurately, the politics we have learned to want? Leadership matters, preferences and priorities are learned; if our leaders are not saying much about poverty or climate change surely that will have an impact on how much we think about those issues. The trivialization of politics – the avoidance of tough issues, the preoccupation with polls and often brutal tactics, the pandering – is self-perpetuating.

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