TED Conversations

Fábio Nunes

This conversation is closed. Start a new conversation
or join one »

What are the duties of a politician?

I got this question from this quote by President Kennedy

Question: Can a representative of the people also make a decision that goes against the opinion of voters, or should he only have an imperative mandate to record only the changes in public opinion, like a kind of seismograph?

Answer: "Voters chose us because they have confidence in our discernment, when we are in a position that allows us to determine what best serves their interests as a part of national interests. This means that we - according to the situation - we have to lead, instruct and correct the opinions of voters and sometimes not even consider them, exercising the discernment we were elected for. "- Kennedy

So, do you agree with Kennedy? What do you think a politician should be.

+1
Share:
progress indicator
  • Sep 20 2011: Fabio
    This is a great question and one very relevant in today's world. My gut says I agree one hundred percent with Kennedy.

    Perhaps that is what is lacking in the US right now. The ability of the people we elected (including the President) to do what is right and not let opinion polls govern the country.

    But the key there, is correct discernment of the situation, not their individual situation; does it get me re-elected--or the vacillations of public opinion. Discernment means judging. It means separating out right from wrong. I believe on a national level that means what is best for the country and society, not just what is popular at the moment. Obviously in today's world, that comes with a price, a price some are not willing to pay.

    The other issue in the US is the impact of lobbyists. It is not wrong to argue for a cause, it is terribly wrong to pay an approved and at least tacitly wrong bribe to get someone to vote your agenda. They so influence some people, they will never vote any other way than the direction of the money or perceived influence.

    In many other countries, I think for example in Mexico, ideologies, including old ideologies long dead practically determine how many leaders vote and lead. These ideas may, in their context, seem very good, but they often distort reality to a point of distorting the reality of a country.

    We elect people to lead, but many have just become followers. They follow a party line, a lobbyist or an ideology. We need more people that look to the common welfare, to the common good.
    • thumb
      Sep 20 2011: GREAT illumination of the issues! Thank you!
    • thumb
      Sep 20 2011: exactly. And the worst is that when good legislation is approved, for example and in my opinion the Dodd-Frank Act, some pressure groups are able to influence the following election and through this means cut the funding of the agencies that this bill had created, therefore there is no real push-forward. What motivation can a politician have to take good measures, but sometimes unpopular to minorities if the result is the loss of the following elections and the "death of the bill".
      • Sep 20 2011: That is the deal we are facing in the US anyway. I think we can limit the power of lobbyists. We will not return to a day where they did not rule, but we can limit them. We have to get back to speaking about the common good, or the good of the nation as a commonly held, commonly practiced value in our politicians.

        Right now yes, they have little incentive sometimes to actually back unpopular bills, even if they are good legislation.
  • thumb

    E G 10+

    • +1
    Sep 25 2011: To be a politician (by the way that guys from your pic looks like two perfect politicians).
  • Sep 16 2011: Maybe we expect too much from a politician. And even some of them (around 1%) really want to work so we have a better world. But a political position is no Sim City.
    • thumb
      Sep 20 2011: "we expect too much from a politician" - I disagree. I believe that a politician has to be the best person for the job. A developed country can't expect less than perfection from a politician. Obviously perfection is never and can never be achieved, but that is no reason why we should stop basing our politicians on that, this is, it's better trying to be gold but failing than to be just pyrite, as in this last case we are just loosing our time.
  • Sep 16 2011: A politicians duty is to serve the people, to make a decision without their input is a dictatorship, I strongly disagree with Kennedy.

    James
    • thumb
      Sep 20 2011: i have to disagree with you. in this everchanging times, everything that doens't evolve it dummed to fail. A society that, for example, still supports itself in racist laws, a society that discriminates against women, etc is as you probably agree programmed to fail. However, eventhaugh change is necessary, people are often against it, as they fear change, as, for example, white people feared/hated MLK.

      If a politician serves only people's interest, than everything stays the same. Sometimes we need an open minded politician that goes left when we all say right to improve our lives.
      • Sep 20 2011: Fabio

        I see and appreciate your point of view, it's not something I had considered.
  • thumb
    Sep 14 2011: Thank you so much for bringing this quotation to us, Fabio! I have never read it before but I agree with it one hundred per cent. If an elected representative only voted exactly as the majority of her constituents (a combination of informed, uninformed and those misinformed by special interest groups) declared at a given time, our societies would be blown by the winds of sentiment and emotion. If, on the other hand, we do our best to choose capable candidates and then representatives we must trust them to have the education, leadership qualities and integrity to do what is best for the nation as a whole. At least that is the way I wish it could work.
    If we do prefer it the other way, we need to quickly dispense with elected representatives altogether and start using a direct vote from each interested citizen so that all decisions can reflect our wishes and so that we must individually take responsibility for the outcomes.
    • thumb
      Sep 20 2011: I agree. I think that people don't vote on politicians only because of their ideas, but also because people believe the politician they are voting for is a wise person, capable of leading their country not only regarding economic or social security issues (the main points of all debates) but also in other issues, such as, fight for civil rights, foreing affairs, etc
  • thumb
    Sep 21 2011: I think it is a wise idea for any large amount of people to be governed by someone although with the federal government. I don't even have enough characters to list how many different ways these guys are not only violating our constitutional rights but just plain breaking the law. I just dont see how this is ever gonna change. I know that sounds defeatist bu treally the whole thing has just gotten out of hand.
  • thumb
    Sep 21 2011: Your right about that! But instead of just admitting mistakes and then trying something different. They just keep covering them up and acting like nothing ever happened. I mean,nobodies expecting some sort of utopia - people make mistakes but there has to be a better way to handle them. Ha, yes, I have never understood why people boo and cheer at all at those things. Its kind of stupid if you ask me. But Texas is very ,very conseravative. I used to travel through there and in some counties I dont even think they know that we are now living in the 21 century.
  • thumb
    Sep 20 2011: Well, I think that he honestly believes in the power of the people. And he also has the most radical policies about decreasing the power of the federal government. Also, he is the only politician I have ever seen or heard that will openly admit and apologize for the major mistakes the United States has made with our foriegn policy. He has the courage to stand up (while getting nearly booed off the stage)and tell people things that are uncomfortable to hear not because it will gain him popularity but because its true. In my opinion the rest of those guys are just walking egos without an ounce of humitlity. They are inconsistent in their conviction and greedy with their money., licking the palm of big buisnesses-trying to get rich at hard working Americans expense. And then they take the stand like some trained hollywood actor and tell people a bunch of lies. Its sickening really.
    • thumb
      Sep 20 2011: I've seen some GOP debates on CNN, and I've never noticed him for his name, however now that you talk about the booing I remember him. I think it's good to have someone in that bunch of actors as you call them that really brings us back to reality. Sometimes I guess it's hard for Americans to recognize America's mistakes, but nonetheless they need to be recognized because as the mistake as already been made, you can only make the most out of it by bringing it up to the table. Not talking about the mistakes takes us nowhere.

      On a side note, I really don't get the audience in these debates. They boo someone who takes an odd (as it's not common) but strong position but then they gave the biggest applause of the night to a politician that defends death penalty with the argument that people in Texas don't want to see people (their friends, family) killed - as if someone does - as therefore they resort to this "ultimate justice". I honestly don't get it: they boo a breath of fresh air and applaud an old move - at least from GOP candidates, as they are extremely conservative.
  • thumb
    Sep 19 2011: The only politician I can stomach is Ron Paul.
    • thumb
      Sep 20 2011: can you tell us why? I don't know Ron Paul as I'm not american, therefore, could you please tell me what do you see in him that you don't see in other politicians?
  • Sep 16 2011: Well when i see that question a famos quote by Jean Le Rond D'Alambert comes to mind, it says something like:
    "War is the art of destroying men, politics is the art of lying to them".
    • thumb
      Sep 20 2011: great quote. and that's true. As Kennedy also said, in politics we can't sepparate the world of the ideas from the world of the mechanics of politics (this is charisma, etc), because what's the point of having ideas if we can't use them, and sometimes this requires some lies.
  • Sep 14 2011: they should do what their title says. which is represent what the people want. but in today's society, many representatives do what favors the real people who put them there.
    • thumb
      Sep 15 2011: This is an interesting addition. Now that the Supreme Court of the US has deemed that corporations are not only people under the law but that they are free to advertise and promote their own point of view in elections, this will only continue to be a greater and greater influence.
    • thumb
      Sep 20 2011: that's true. Lobbys are, some say, destroying some countries.