There is an inherent dishonesty in politics.
Perhaps that’s the reason I never had the stomach for it.
Not that I’m some stalwart of ethical purity – God knows, I’m not. Just another sinner lost in the wilderness – so maybe it’s the lack of clarity that bothers me most.
I think this institutionalized deceit comes from the need to be everything to everyone – and when the first duty of a politician is to get elected – the ability to quickly spin a narrative and paint circumstances in a positive light becomes second nature.
It’s why television news organizations now have things like “Truth-o-Meters” and other visual tchotchkes to check the facts and tell us the degree to which our elected officials – and those who want to be – are lying to appease some segment of their constituency.
It’s not healthy to our participatory democracy, but We, The People have come to expect it.
Unfortunately, in Volusia County there is another, infinitely more important, consideration for both prospective and perennial politicians – our “Rich & Powerful” overseers who control the playing field with massive campaign contributions that ensure their personal and professional wants and whims take priority.
This division of loyalties results in an ‘us vs. them’ mentality that seems to have infected every level of county government – a culture that seeks to serve the “system” rather than the needs of citizens.
And this overweening desire to serve their political masters and protect the bureaucracy has resulted in a deep divide – and a complete loss of the public’s trust in their government.
Recently, I learned that some of my postings on this blogsite have angered several of our self-important “movers & shakers” in the economic development game and their compatriots in the Chamber of Commerce set.
Sorry. But I’m not sorry. . .
When I retired from municipal government, I didn’t set out to become the political conscience of Volusia County.
“Not my job,” as bureaucrats like to say.
Besides, I’m not exactly the poster boy for good governance.
During over 31-years of public service, I made my share of mistakes that cost the taxpayers money, stood by in cowardly silence as senior executives misused their position or openly lied to city commissioners to drive their personal agenda, and I clawed and fumbled my way to a management position then held on by my fingernails – a living example of the Peter Principle in action. . .
This blog is, in many ways, a personal catharsis.
And, like any good magician, I know how the sleight-of-hand is performed. . .
So, if my musings and observations on the news and newsmakers from the local political swamp makes certain very important people uncomfortable – that’s okay – they’re all veterans of the internecine wars and intergovernmental squabbles, smart men and women with hard bark who are well capable of taking care of themselves and protecting their ‘turf.’
And if some fool banging out hyper-critical screeds in his tattered boxer shorts can raise the hackles of our social and political elite – perhaps we do have bigger problems than even my gin-soaked, conspiratorial mind can conjure?
Clearly, the long-suffering residents of Volusia County are desperate for an alternative opinion on the issues of the day – a point of view that either validates their own observations or provides food for thought – and I enjoy the lively debate of competing ideas that always elevates my understanding.
In my experience, good politicians and career public servants – those who are called to serve a cause greater than their own self-interests – use criticism to their personal and political advantage.
By taking the pulse of their constituents and exploring the varied fears and aspirations of those they serve, elected officials can craft public policy from an informed position that considers the real needs of those whose lives and livelihoods are most affected.
And those in the Ivory Tower of Power who get personally offended by critical opinions that are counter to their own sense of infallibility – to hell with them. That’s the arrogance of ego.
One day I’ll tire of being a blowhard critic, pointing out how, as Roosevelt said, the strongman stumbled, or the doer of deeds could have done them better – but it won’t be today.
If the thousands of readers that access Barker’s View each month continue to find a chuckle, an insight, a weird facet to a complex civic issue or a kernel of truth they may have been searching for – then I’ll consider this exercise a twisted public service.
Look, at the end of the day, I’m getting a little long in the tooth for self-therapy – and I long ago stopped caring what others think of me – so if some goofy opinion of mine causes heartburn around the political fishing camps that have reduced many government offices and organizations to paranoid, clock-watching mediocrity – too damn bad.