Limited Taxation & Government
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Saturday, June 6, 1998
Bulworth has rap on truth
By Barbara Anderson
Bulworth stole my campaign. Now I can never be a politician.
Of course, mine would have started differently. I would have had to be crazy to even
consider running for office in the first place. But in mental moments, I have thought that
it might be fun to run on a platform of telling the truth to all people, all of the time.
I read a novel about this years ago. The
presidential candidate wasn't crazy; he set out deliberately to tell everyone the opposite
of what they expected to hear. He was merely trying to make a point, but in the end he was
elected by voters desperate for an honest leader.
Think how much more desperate we are
The one part I clearly recall was his
telling farmers in Iowa that they shouldn't be getting paid for not growing crops. But he
managed to offend, and yet win, business leaders, minorities, senior citizens, college
students, unions, conservatives and liberals, by telling them they weren't entitled to
anything they hadn't earned.
I'll bet if "Bulworth" catches
on, politicians will be huddling with advisers and pollsters to determine how they can get
elected by appearing to tell the truth. The problem with this strategy is threefold: 1.
Most of today's politicians can't pull it off because they wouldn't know the truth if they
found it in their salad, and, 2. Special interest groups who fund campaigns don't want to
hear it, and, 3. Most people respond well to the truth until television news tells them
the truth isn't nice. Then they join in the media attack on the candidate.
Exhibit A: Barry Goldwater.
Time out for a heartfelt tribute to the first politician who inspired me to get involved.
My husband and I signed up as volunteers for Goldwater's presidential campaign. I pushed a
baby carriage filled with three-month-old Lance and Goldwater literature around Toms
River, N.J., where Jack taught school. One man threatened to throw paint on me, the
literature and the baby: Welcome to political activism, Barb.
So Barry told the truth, the whole
truth, as first stated by Cicero and lived by America's founding fathers: "Extremism
in the defense of liberty is no vice, and moderation in the pursuit of justice is no
virtue." So he lost to Lyndon Johnson, who, while eschewing extremism, sent thousands
of American boys to die in a war that demoralized America for generations. Welcome to
political outrage, Barb.
What a different country this might have been, had an honest man won in 1964.
However, other honest men might have
done better in later campaigns, had it not been for "personal flaws." We are
forever indebted to Paul Tsongas and Ross Perot for telling the truth about the deficit
and national debt, but the former couldn't raise money from special interest groups and
wouldn't take his campaign into the debt he deplored, while the latter wouldn't allow
politics to intrude all the way into his personal life and that of his family. The virtues
that serve us well as human beings are a big liability in the political arena. Welcome to
On a more local level, however, there
might still be hope. John Silber, like the politician in the book, told the truth as he
saw it without regard for whom he might offend, and the voters of Massachusetts loved it.
He might have become governor if he'd had a personality. So it might be worth someone else
Like Bulworth, you gotta rap it, not say
it. Let me try out a campaign message.
If you won't sign a petition and you
don't have the time to vote, and you think that government is something way out there,
And you hope old Thomas Jefferson was
only talking jive, when he said eternal vigilance was needed to survive,
If politicians lie to you and still get
re-elected, because their broken promises can only be expected
And you want a balanced budget and a
government that's small, as long as your pet services are never cut at all,
If they state "it's for the
children" and you call back "tax me more," then they take your hard-earned
dollars for their pensions like before,
But still you let them use you while you
celebrate their nerve, so don't come crying here to me, you get what you deserve.
Think I'd win?
Barbara Anderson is co-director of
Citizens for Limited Taxation and Government. Her column appears bi-weekly and is
syndicated by the Patriot Ledger News syndicate.