Tuesday, December 03, 2013

A Politician By Any Other Name

What do you call politicians?

Well, besides using expletives and colorful metaphors, that is?

I prefer the simple word "politician." It is direct, meaningful...and polite.

Neither "public servant" or "civil servant" is quite the right term because, let's face it, so many of them do not actually serve the public. And many aren't very civil in the enactment of their duties. "Public representative" also fails because the majority of these folks strive not to represent the public as much as they do selective lobbying interests, big donors, party chiefs, and their desperate drive to be re-elected.

I also choose not to use the word "leader." This because the evidence clearly shows that political activity in the last several decades has not led society towards progress, improvement, and freedom. It has taken us in the exact opposite direction.

What about the noun, "lawmaker?" On that point, I agree with Mark Larson who plaintively pleads, "Please stop calling them lawmakers. It only encourages them." I reject the similar word, "legislator" for the same reason.

"Officeholder" is generally accurate, especially given the passionate propensity of incumbents to hold onto their office until death do them part. But I avoid that one because I know they consider it somewhat condescending. So too is the case with the word "bureaucrat." That too has negative connotations and so I save that for unelected officials who work for such agencies as the IRS, the TSA or the Department of Motor Vehicles. (They don't like "bureaucrat" either but, hey, you have to call them something besides clerks and gophers.)

Much better, whenever possible, is the use of specific titles -- Senator, Congressman or Congresswoman, Governor, Mayor, City Councilman, County Clerk, Commissioner, Board Member, and so on.

But one needs a general term when describing the whole lot. And so, after dismissing the above terms (along with the usual epithets), I've selected the most useful and unpretentious word, "politician."

Of course, keep in mind that my years have seen a few politicians who truly deserve a more noble distinction, men and women who really were "public servants," even "statesmen" -- Ronald Reagan, Jack Kemp, Jesse Helms, Bill Armstrong. And I have been blessed to even count a few as friends -- Kay Orr, Ed Zorinsky, Hal Daub, Chip Maxwell, Tony Fulton, Bernice Labedz, and others.

Bless 'em all. The good ones. The bad ones. And the mere officeholders.

By the way, I'm not going to leave you with just these remarks on political vocabulary. I thought I'd also toss in a few of my favorite quotations about politicians. See which ones you like best.

 “One of the reasons people hate politics is that truth is rarely a politician's objective. Election and power are.” (Cal Thomas)

“A politician should have three hats. One for throwing into the ring, one for talking through, and one for pulling rabbits out of if elected.” (Carl Sandburg)

“I rarely meet a politician that I don't like personally. They are generally well endowed with charm. Therein lies the danger.” (P. J. O'Rourke)

“Politics will eventually be replaced by imagery. The politician will be only too happy to abdicate in favor of his image, because the image will be much more powerful than he could ever be.” (Marshall McLuhan)

“A politician needs the ability to foretell what is going to happen tomorrow, next week, next month, and next year. And to have the ability afterwards to explain why it didn't happen.” (Winston Churchill)

“A politician is an animal which can sit on a fence and yet keep both ears to the ground.” (H. L. Mencken)

“A politician thinks of the next election. A statesman, of the next generation.” (James Freeman Clarke)