I am now old enough and have been through enough elections with all the speechifying and promises that I know how it works. We finally settle on a candidate and quickly learn the promises made during an election process are dreams and hopes. They are what we wish might happen, what the candidate wishes would happen.
No one can promise what they will do if elected. No one. It’s not a matter of great intentions. I believe that most nominees really intend to do their best. They want everyone to have health care, free education, daycare, and a better quality of life. Not our current government, but most.
Yet rarely do they fulfill their promises. Rarely do they get anywhere near fulfilling them because politics is a crapshoot. Getting the votes to accomplish major legislation is less like a game of chess and more like a particularly brutal ice hockey game. If you don’t get whacked on the head and you’re still standing at the end of the game, it’s a win.
It used to be that at the base of all government — Republican or Democrat — everyone cared most about making sure that the nation would be the winner. The notion that “the country comes first” stood before any political or party affiliation. It preceded personal agendas and stump speech promises. It was the reason you went into government in the first place. You could make more money privately because your salary as a senator, congressperson, or president was never as much as you’d make in the private sector.
I don’t know if that is true anymore. People go into politics without much and come back with a lot more money than they had before. I have trouble resolving that.
One of the things I knew in Israel was that few politicians had much money. Most of them lived in an apartment no better than mine. A few had more money, but they weren’t rich. When the country was doing poorly, they came together to form a united leadership to pull Israel back together. Because they cared about it and loved it.
I don’t know if that’s true anymore either. Not only are we changing, but the world is changing.
Bernie Sanders promises 100% health care for all. Exactly how is he going to get that passed into law? Let’s assume it’s the best idea (I have a few doubts about it, but we’ll take it as an axiom for now), how exactly is he going to get a majority of both the senate and congress to vote for it? He can’t just announce it and voila! Like magic, there it is. If a president could do that, FDR would have done it a long time ago. For that matter, Kennedy would have done it.
Kennedy got nothing accomplished. It was Lyndon Baines Johnson who created Medicare and Medicaid after Kennedy was assassinated. And to get the Civil Rights amendment passed, he literally fell on his own sword. Had he not gotten sucked into the Vietnam War, he’d have been my choice for best ever modern president.
When Buttigieg said the other day that in countries with a national health service for all, there still are private insurance plans. That’s true. Those private plans offer office visits rather than clinics and other benefits. The prices for these private plans are not huge and if you are employed, you can choose whichever one appeals to you.
But here? Since Franklin Delano Roosevelt, every president has tried to implement national health insurance and failed. That we managed to get Medicare was just short of a miracle. Medicaid was a miracle.
So we listen to our candidates but we are listening to their best hopes, not their plans. They cannot build a wall and have Mexico pay for it. They cannot make all public colleges free. They are not going to raise the rates on social security so that we who live on it aren’t constantly fending off poverty, trying desperately to keep our homes from decaying, and somehow managing to keep our older cars running.
When you vote, you are voting for a dream, a hope, and a prayer. No promise made in a political stump speech is a genuine promise. All they can do is offer us what we want and afterward, give us what they can.
They aren’t lying. But they aren’t telling us truth, either.