Elections and political change
I consider myself a very politically-oriented person. Ever since I was a little boy, I remember my father talking politics with my grandfather. Despite the fact that I never got actively involved — although to be honest I have contributed as a technical expert to a political party — by adding up my experiences to the ones passed down to me from endless political talks at the kitchen table, I have developed an opinion based on almost 40 years of political analysis and evaluation. If you ask me to sum it all up in a sentence, it all comes up to this: Nothing ever simply changes.
Politics through history
By definition, politics is associated with decision-making and power games. It is almost as old as mankind itself and it can lead to either good or bad. Even in the interpretation of the Book of Revelation, the “eternal sea” mentioned is interpreted by some as a symbolism for politics.
Politics have shaped the history of mankind and will certainly continue to do so. From the city-states of Ancient Greece to the Roman Empire, from the Dark Ages to the Enlightenment, from World War II to the Cold War and today, politics have been the catalyst of change, while shaping human history blatantly or behind the scenes.
Modern Politics and Democracy
Nowadays, in the vast majority of the countries comprising the Western world, the political field has been “monopolized” by democracy. Since its foundation in Ancient Greece, democracy has been pivotal to solidarity and development. Simply put, it’s an efficient and mostly effective constitutionalism, where the voices of everyone (?!) are been heard through representation in the Parliament, where decisions are being made through majority voting.
Its consistency is a “safe bet” for everyone (involved or not), while the transition of power following elections is smooth and for the most part non-perceivable. As a result, it’s safe to say that modern Democracy is here to stay.
Every several years (usually 4), the people are called to vote for their representatives in their national elections. The candidates organize events and benefits, where they can give speeches on their approach regarding societal matters, they can debate topical issues, and of course interact with their potential voters. They always have a team of multifaceted experts working or volunteering for them, who — should they get elected — will then resume on becoming their office staff.
It’s a well-established system that seems to work, while keeping the people involved overall happy, so I don’t see it changing or evolving significantly in the near future.
The possibility of change
In my opinion, this possibility is on a scale of low to non-existent, despite of the politician’s intentions and ethos, except of course under extraordinary circumstances. But why is that?
The government needs consistency: It’s nice (and almost romantic) for a politician to actually believe in making a meaningful contribution to society through politics. It really is!! However, when they assume office, they have to confront the already established and highly inflexible “way we do things around here”. And since the rule of survival dictates that you have to “adapt or perish”, it usually is the first.
A labyrinth of laws and bylaws: Even when an issue arises (before or after the elections) and a politician has the will to address it, he/she will have to face a bureaucratic nightmare! Existing laws, local legislative issues, obsolete perceptions and of course potential conflicts of interest are only few of the pitfalls he/she will have to overcome.
A politician’s promise is a binding one only from the recipient’s perspective: I have never heard a politician say “no” to a request before the elections. Never! It’s much easier to say “yes”, it doesn’t cost them anything and it ensures them yet another vote (or votes). Don’t get me wrong, I honestly do believe some politicians want to be true to their word after they get elected, and some of these promises eventually do get fulfilled; however the majority of them are only binding the recipients into giving their vote.
We — the voters — are the change
I want to say yes, and — being positive by nature — I believe that eventually yes. However, this change is only possible if it comes from the foundations and up; and when I say foundations, I mean the society as a whole. In order for the politician and the system to change, the voter must be the one that changes first. By having an informed opinion on important issues and by not being susceptible to non-feasible promises, they can choose the candidate that represents their beliefs the most.
Apart from being down-to-earth and informed, the voter must also evolve emotionally and embrace political innovation. By not voting for any kind of extremes (remember that society has an already established way of operating, it can’t move substantially away from that way in one election period harmonically), and by not voting simply against something but for something (it’s easier to oppose an idea than to actually support it), a voter can turn into a cog on the machine of change.
Finally, it’s important to perceive change when it actually initiates and not just wait for it. If, for example, a voter believes that the existing political parties are inadequate and a new one — close to his/her political viewpoint — is formed, he/she should actively support it and vote for the change it represents. Because longing for political change sometimes requires exiting our comfort zone (in this case the safe choice of existing parties) and thinking (voting) outside the box.
Political change, as history has proven numerous times, eventually comes. It comes either at a slow and steady pace, or with a significant impact to society. It falls to us — the voters — to function (and vote) proactively, in order for this transition to be as smooth and as beneficial to society as possible.