Positive public opinion does little to generate real change

Politicians adopt ideological stances only to gain voter support, regardless of ability to enact



Idealistic intentions of those running for office appeal to voters, but rarely are they followed through on. Elected officials should base their campaigns on practical goals.

AMAR JOSHI, Evergreen Columnist

In today’s divisive and polarized climate, politicians love to focus on the ideals of an issue rather than the actual problem.

This leads to a huge lack of support for the people they represent. No politician helps their constituency by being an ideological warrior.

The government appears to be split along the liberal-conservative spectrum. Sometimes that split seems to fall on the libertarian-authoritarian spectrum. In reality, the government consists solely of idealists and pragmatists. This is the age-old divide for the political world.

Politicians have a decision to make when they come into politics: whether they see success in their numbers or in their policy.

Idealists appeal to their constituents and new voters by taking a polarized stance on moral and ideological issues. These stances divide people and harden everyone’s opinions to steel. Because these tactics guarantee votes, many politicians take the side they know will bring them the most support.

“Ideological politics is more important with base supporters,” said Cornell Clayton, professor of political science at WSU. “Culture wars and issues that are divisive bring more support. Politicians vote more ideologically based on the broader political climate.”

This problem is an important one for government officials to understand, as politicians who speak on the basis of ideals and hypotheticals tend to be ignored by legitimate politicians. If it’s a trade-off between the support of voters and the ability to enact better policy, one should always choose the latter.

“The politician will be more successful with their base in general,” Clayton said. “Representative Shea [of Spokane] is ineffective at making policy, but elevated his public standing. [His] speeches take a side and are fiery.”

Clayton claimed Shea is successful in the media, especially on Fox. But he is ineffective at cutting bipartisan deals and getting policy out there.

If ideological politicians want to have any impact on the areas they represent, they need to calm down and take stances supporting more than their constituency. Our government needs to work together if they want to make any lasting social or economic change. To do that, they need common goals.

Many of these people have good ideas, they simply take inflammatory rhetoric and aggressive stances to receive more attention. It’s sad that these politicians would rather game the system for fame than actually create beneficial change in their communities.

It is up to voters and the media to look past the thin veil of the speeches and opinions these politicians have. Instead they should urge them to stay quiet, focus on change and come to a consensus. People can work together if they try to. Simply taking sides to associate with a voter group helps no one.

Keep in contact with your representative, especially those you see on the news. Ask them what they do inside the chamber that helps the community and get them to understand words don’t mean anything if they don’t follow them up with actions.