In politics, there are few more annoying things than campaign promises that go unfulfilled. Politicians get away with it because it usually takes several years before anyone figures it out. The feedback loop is too long.
Occasionally, we see politicians create empty promises right before our eyes. This is due to the fact that certain promises cannot be fulfilled by their very nature. Sometimes there is no problem to be fixed; sometimes the solution is worse than the problem. The politicians that make these promises know this. Their efforts are nothing more than pure marketing for voters wearing blinders.
When it comes to the blinders that voters wear, most of the blinders are simply blinders of inexperience. Someone once said that experience makes fools of us all. For sure, experience makes people change their minds.
Hillary Clinton was an ardent Republican at one time and spent her college years raising money for Barry Goldwater. Winston Churchill said, "Anyone who is a Republican before the age of 30 has no heart. Anyone who isn't a Republican after the age of 30 has no brain." (Evidently, Hillary has no heart or brain.)
Churchill's point was that the experiences of life naturally make people conservative because they begin to see the big picture. They see that welfare prolongs poverty. They see that pork is the appetizer (and sometimes the entree) of every Congressional dinner. They see that taxing the rich is a lie because there aren't enough rich people to support the politicians in the style to which they would like to become accustomed.
We let a great many of these inexperienced citizens vote. In fact, we encourage them to vote even though we know most of them will make the wrong decision. Fortunately for the GOP, most of them don't actually get around to voting.
During the Super Tuesday media coverage, I watched several reporters interview college students in various election states. Most of the reporting focused on the Young Democrats club and how its members felt about the Democratic candidates.
Trying his best to sound older than twenty, a twenty-year-old solemnly opined to the reporter that Barack Obama was finally the candidate "his group could trust". He said that Obama speaks to "our issues" and understands the "problems that we face".
It was hard for me to keep a straight face. Issues? The hardest issue facing most twenty-year-olds is how to increase their Xbox score. The only possible political question facing college students is how the government will handle loans and scholarships.
When I was in college, the kids that handled their own finances didn't have time to be in political clubs. They worked several jobs and did what they had to to get by. Political clubs, frats, and hobbies were for the kids that had mom and dad footing the bill.
It isn't likely that the "issues" these Young Democrats are talking about are related to finances. And therein lies the question - what do they say are their issues? The answer is: they don't.
When asked by the reporter that very question, the twenty-year-old talked about social networking and how the candidates were finally reaching out to them. (By the way, when he said "social networking", he wasn't referring to some sort of community of welfare activists. He was referring to how Obama scatters flair on Facebook and Myspace.)
News flash to college students: The candidates aren't really addressing your issues. It's not because they don't want to, they'd say anything to get your votes, it's because you don't have any actual issues.
You don't work a real job or pay a large tax burden. You don't worry about health care. You aren't buying a house, founding a family, or raising kids. There are no "problems that you face" compared to your friends and family members out there in the cold, cruel real world.
Most adults say this perspective is unfair. After all, we spend so much time and money encouraging kids to vote, isn't it a good thing that they come together and work on "issues" and get passionate about politics?
No, it isn't. It's a bad thing.
If college kids are making up "issues" that they can't even intelligently define just to have an excuse to be passionate about politics, the wrong people will end up getting elected. They'll also learn early in life that political style is more important than political substance.
To the young, Obama is anti-establishment, and that's all that matters. Young voters have been picking the young guy for as long as they've been allowed to vote. They do it for the same reason old voters pick the old guy.
Most of politics depends on trust. If your guy talks about the best values but can't be trusted to keep them and fight for them, what good is he? It takes an experienced voter to pick the most trustworthy candidate.
Many times, the incumbent seems less trustworthy than the new guy only because no one knows what the new guy will do. Old voters understand that, and so to them novelty is irrelevant; they look at track record. Young voters have no perspective on trustworthiness; they have the time and tenaciousness to pick a bad candidate over and over again.
College kids shouldn't be concerned with which candidate speaks "to their issues" because they shouldn't be allowed to vote in the first place. The founding fathers never expected 18 year olds to vote, and that was at a time when most 18 year olds were serious, hard working, motivated members of society - many of whom were already married with children.
In fact, the founders never considered a specific age relevant at all; only people with skin in the game voted. If you didn't own land, you didn't vote. Today that would be equal to something like:
Being the newest, flashiest candidate in the race is about the last thing that qualifies a person for making solid political decisions. History has demonstrated almost the exact opposite time and time again.
Sir Winston Churchill would have won no beauty contests and was famous for his acerbic tongue; but he is routinely voted the greatest Englishman who ever lived. Many young people don't believe he ever existed, which proves that young people don't know enough to vote.
Ronald Reagan was old enough to be the great-grandfather of most college students of his day, with wrinkles to match; yet he's right up there. A quick glance in your wallet reveals that George Washington was no match for Tom Cruise, and Abe Lincoln - perhaps the best president we've ever had - is generally considered the least attractive physically.
The most handsome president (by the standards of the day) was Warren G. Harding, whose administration failed so miserably that he himself said "I am not fit for this office and never should have been here."
People running for elective office don't worry about why people vote for them; they'll take whatever votes they can get. Obama has more than a few political ads on television targeting young people. His Internet ads speak only to young people.
We should expect no less. Since they are allowed to vote, Obama knows that those are free points he can add to his total, and so he tells them that he's all about "their issues" whatever that means. At least he can't be accused of breaking promises that have no meaning.
One wonders if, just possibly, the Founding Fathers knew what they were doing when they neglected to extend the franchise to 18-year-olds.