The Art of Politics Versus Leadership

The Art of Politics Versus Leadership
The California State Capitol building in Sacramento on April 18, 2022. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)
Tony Hall

In today’s world, in almost any profession or occupation, many people would not have the intestinal fortitude (or “neck” as some would say) to seek a promotion, an advancement, or even a higher station in life unless they could demonstrate that their past performance was deserving of such.

Hopefully, America hasn’t deteriorated to the point where we no longer reward people for their ability, skill, and effectiveness to perform their job.

If I am wrong, and merit-based success is no longer desired or required for advancement, then we can all call it a day and look forward to our eventual decline as a nation that once led the world in innovation, technology, science, commerce, industry, education, social works, and many other areas.

The ability of our country to provide such a high standard of living for most of its population, including immigrants and refugees from all over the world who come here seeking a better life, has resulted from the efforts of those who led the way by putting their skill, foresight, knowledge, solutions, and policies forth in such a way that the end result was a better quality of life and standard of living for their fellow man.

These were true leaders who possessed honesty and integrity in addition to their other attributes, and their efforts were rewarded by positive election results. Our ability to capitalize on men and women’s inherent ability to want to better themselves and those around them by doing good for society at large is what made this country great and produced great leaders. The freedom to do so, and the rewards associated with success, are prime motivators.

However, that very same freedom also tolerates those who utilize self-serving, divisive, and ignorant policies and proposals to further their own political careers. Note that I said “ignorant,” but not necessarily unsuccessful, as many of their proposals actually led to them being elected.

Why is this? In most cases, it’s because the voters were not truthfully informed as to the negative implications that such policies would have for society in general. In other instances, it is because the voters themselves did not bother to examine the policies.

More commonly today, the voters simply do not want to be singled out or portrayed as being on the wrong side of a deliberately well-orchestrated media-financed campaign that castigates anyone who might object or offer a different opinion.

As I alluded to, the process for advancement usually depends upon some degree of success in one’s chosen occupation. This is the way things normally work in every field, except in the field of politics!

The “art of politics”, when practiced as an occupation unto itself, defies any logic required for advancement. People can move up in the occupation without having been successful in leading or in administering the public trust, or without any knowledge of basic economics or even how to approach realistic solutions for the common good.

It can be defined more as an art than a science, because of the imagination or creativity that is judged in the eyes of the beholder, with perception being a big part of how art is judged. So much of how people view politics is based on perception, bias, hope, real-life experiences, etc.

People who go into politics do so for many reasons. Some evolve into the field of politics because they have demonstrated a genuine ability, knowledge, and skill to lead and share. They are usually reelected because the majority of the people they represent are satisfied with their leadership. They rely more on skill and knowledge.

Others, whom I refer to as wannabe politicians, enter the field of politics because of a narcissistic desire to be in the spotlight or to save the world as they see fit. These people have to rely more on the “art of playing the game of politics” and the perception of their policies in order to be successful.

California is full of elected representatives who, without any prior knowledge of public administration, are very successful at manufacturing an issue, be it real or imagined, and then promoting it to gain attention and support for their next campaign. In recent years, these issues have usually been social in nature and revolve around class distinction, race, gender and sexual orientation and discrimination, homelessness, party affiliation, etc., etc.

Usually, they are issues of imagined or minimal significance to the average person, but are presented to the general public as something so dramatic that our society will not exist as a functioning democracy unless the issue is corrected. If you dare oppose the issue, you are readily classified as a racist, homophobic, antisocial deplorable hater, and so on.

They are issues that are used to divide and conquer, confuse and exploit, because these types of political wannabes know nothing of serving the common good.

The following is a brief and simplified guideline for those wannabe politicians seeking the quickest way to fame and notoriety.
  1. Manufacture a catchy, “feel-good” phrase for an obscure issue that will eliminate perceived discrimination against a certain segment of our society. Never mind whether there is really a history of discrimination or whether the issue itself really exists, as that is unimportant.
  2. It must be an issue that is sellable to a special interest or portion of the population that sees political gain, as that is how campaigns are financed.
  3. It must be sellable to those members of the general public that want to always be politically correct, as defined by a media-driven campaign.
  4. Lastly, it must be sellable to those members of the public that trust that their politicians are always doing what is best for the common good and not for political expediency.
If real scrutiny of the issue is avoided through a slick and misleading campaign, it is possible for the proposed measure to pass, and bingo, you get elected. Then you can devise more phony issues that you can sell to a busy and preoccupied public that will take you to your next perch on the political ladder.

By the time the effect on the common good is finally examined and/or realized, enough time has elapsed that the wannabe politician is able to escape accountability and, if called out, blame those who try to fix the mess that he himself created.

I will cite just one of many such issues that come to mind that propelled California Governor Gavin Newsom’s political career and that occurred when I served on the Board of Supervisors with him in San Francisco—the signature “care not cash” issue that Newsom introduced in San Francisco in 2002.

This catchy phrase and very deceiving issue called for replacing monthly cash disbursements to homeless people with “care” consisting of housing, medical care, food, and various other assistance programs. (Note: Most of the assistance programs already existed in the city at that time in one form or another.)

The issue passed with the voters because of frustration with a growing homeless problem at that time, and they wanted something to be done about it. Also, few people wanted to be perceived as being against the “care” that Newsom was prescribing as a fix-all.

The problem is that the voters were not honestly informed as to the real costs associated with providing the “care,” as the cash deducted only provided a small percentage of the costs for the promised care. In reality, the program was a colossal scam with the only benefits going to the chosen politically connected nonprofits that administered the services. These nonprofits in turn contributed to Newsom’s future campaigns.

Word of such a program in San Francisco became a magnet for homeless people from all over the world. Sadly, their plight was exploited for political expediency, and the taxpaying residents are left holding the bill. The result is that San Francisco has 5 times the number of homeless people it had before and an annual homeless budget 10 times the amount in 2002.

Now on to the point of the column.

In my lifetime as a native Californian, I have never witnessed the State of California to be in worse shape than it is today. This is the case in almost all aspects that determine the quality of life. I think anybody who has resided here for any period of time would have to admit the same if they are at all truthful.

Here is a list of facts about California today:

Crime in California has never been so rampant. This includes petty theft, burglaries, shoplifting, all varieties of misdemeanors and felonies, random acts of violence, sexual assault, property destruction, and just about any category you can name. Forget the dishonest crime stats issued by local authorities.

Homelessness has never reached the levels that it has today, where it has overtaken large segments of our communities with no end in sight and with no programs that impact the root causes.

Taxes and fees on everything have never been higher.

The cost of living is skyrocketing, with signs of an oncoming depression.

Corruption by some of our local and state employees and elected representatives has never been more evident. There is a record number of federal indictments, and corruption is now a common occurrence in our statewide system of pay-to-play governance.

Government overregulation has reached the point of closing small businesses.

The cost of housing is out of reach for most middle-class Californians.

The cost of transportation and gasoline fluctuates at record levels.

Racial discord and divisiveness is at a fever pitch and promoted for political purposes.

Forest fires are raging at an unprecedented rate, mainly due to bad forest management practices.

Our educational system, despite the enormous amounts of money spent to prop it up, is ranked near the bottom nationally.

Illegal border crossings into our state are at an all-time high.

Election integrity is questioned in most counties of the state.

This list could go on and on, but you get the picture. How did this happen to what was once one of the most desirable states in the Union for people to live in? What caused us to decline so rapidly that just in the past 18 months, over 350,000 people from all walks of life have decided to leave California?

If you want graphs, charts, and statistics to back up what I am stating, it’s easy to look them up yourself, as this column is limited in space. You really only need to talk to your neighbors to verify what I am stating.

The only real explanation that one needs to ponder revolves around the total lack of leadership, expertise, and integrity in addressing our problems. We do not have good leadership in California at this time or we could not possibly have the problems that we have.

Virtues such as honesty and integrity, combined with the ability and skill to address our problems in a way that truly represents the common good of the majority of people regardless of identity politics or special interests, is what successful leaders are made of.

The wannabe politicians I referred to above, who get in the game because of their own personal motivations, might be able to elevate themselves because of their salesmanship, ability to raise money, etc. But they can never be true successful leaders who work for the common good, because they have no real-life experience in leading or working for anyone but themselves.

The field of politics allows that type of person to exist and survive, but is it good for the majority of you and society as a whole? You have a decision to make, and very shortly you will have to decide.

The truth is—and of course you will not hear this from Newsom—he is running for president. He probably has been since he was about six years old.

He has more money in more accounts nationwide than any other potential Democratic challenger. His recent legislative decisions reversing his support for his pet long-term issues indicate that he is reading the tea leaves and his weekly polls, which indicate that he’d better listen to someone other than the radical left progressives.

Here is a man who will do anything to achieve his long-term goal, including abandoning his stated long-term beliefs. Is he the type of leader you want, or should he be judged on his performance regarding the facts about the State of California listed above?

Views expressed in this article are opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.
Tony Hall is a former supervisor for San Francisco's District 7. He has held executive and administrative positions in seven different city departments in all three branches of government over a 33-year period.
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