I was checking out at a store Friday when I handed the cashier a box containing individual items that she needed to count in order to charge me for. I told her there were six of them and she rang it up without checking.
“Well, if you’re going to take my word for it without looking, there were really only two,” I jokingly said to her.
“Oh, you wouldn’t lie to me,” she said quite seriously and confidently. “I can tell. Most people would, but you wouldn’t.”
My first reaction was to be grateful that someone could see my sterling character all the way through the fat and ugly exterior. It’s kind of nice to be trusted, isn’t it? And to be honest, this is something I’ve heard strangers say to me all my life. I seem to have a trustworthy-looking face.
But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that her reaction wasn’t really that great. In fact, it’s the sort of poor judgment people use all the time when they turn their lives over to politicians who they’ve decided they can trust.
Have you ever heard someone say — of a politician or actor or someone else they’ve never met — “I really like him”? We all seem to make instant, intuitive judgments about people, and we’re oddly sure that our judgments are correct, even if it’s absurd for other people to make such silly snap judgments.
People jump to conclusions about politicians and they’re eager to turn their lives and futures over to such quick judgments. If there’s one thing that my two decades of working closely with politicians taught me, it’s that voters tend to trust the wrong people.
I’ve worked for candidates who I didn’t really even trust and heard voters talk about how trustworthy those candidates are. They weren’t necessarily stupid people, but they were inclined to believe surface-level indicators that didn’t necessarily mean a lot.
Polls show that most people have little trust for politicians in general or for Congress or just about any political body you can think of, but they’re oddly trusting of their own representatives, especially if they’ve ever voted for the person. The odd reasoning seems to be that politicians aren’t to be trusted, but their representative is different. He’s the rare trustworthy “statesman” who’s only serving for the good of the people. Yes, a large proportion of people honestly believe this.
Even if you’re silly enough to still favor any politician (or any government), remember that you’re likely to be a victim of the same thing. No matter how much you think of a politician, remember that he’s human and that you’re seeing what you want to see in him — at least to some extent.
I suggest that you don’t trust any politician or any government, but if you’re going to stick with the majoritarian system, at least remember that the people you trust are going to betray and disappoint you. They can’t help it. They’re human beings.
I’d prefer you walk away from a system that hands the power to some to wield over others. If you insist on choosing someone to favor, though, at least check out every single thing the person says — so you’ll know more quickly when you’ve been had.
Just remember that if a politician tells you it’s raining, go to the window and see for yourself — and be sure to ask yourself what motivation he might have to be lying. Despite that trusthworthy face and confident grin, you’re probably dealing with a psychopathic liar.