When a state trooper pulled Katz over for going 80 mph in a 65-mph zone, he noticed the smell of marijuana coming from inside the car. When questioned, Katz turned over a small bag of what appeared to be weed. He was charged with possession of marijuana and released, because the trooper didn’t think Katz was impaired.
The bigger issue — and the one that’s made it a national story — is that Katz is a Republican state assemblyman who’s “railed against illegal drugs,” according to the local newspaper in the area. In addition, he voted last year against legalizing medical marijuana.
In other words, he’s the typical politician who’s telling a mainstream audience what it wants to hear and voting the way his voters want him to vote.
Predictably, this has turned into a story just about his obvious hypocrisy. While that’s certainly the case, the real story is that voters don’t know their legislators — because those legislators tell voters whatever they want to hear in order to get elected and stay in office.
I’ve mentioned before that when I worked in politics, I didn’t ask each client which issues he wanted included in the campaign material I produced for him. Although the client certainly reviewed material before it was printed, the issues were almost always the ones that I selected — and I wrote exactly what voters wanted to hear. That’s just the way politics works.
Behind closed doors, there aren’t as many differences between these folks as almost everybody assumes. While there are certainly some officeholders who are sincere and practice what they claim to believe, their numbers are dwarfed by those who simply pander to whatever the majority of their voters want to hear.
In Republican districts, candidates talk in language that social conservatives want to hear. To see the way they present themselves in public, you’d think they live like monks. In reality, many of those same people live a lifestyle that their voters would see as debauchery. But it’s hidden. (I could tell stories of specifics here, but I don’t talk about those who’ve trusted me as a client in the past.)
In Democratic districts, candidates say things that more left-leaning voters and minorities want to hear. (The part about minorities wouldn’t apply in the white Democratic districts, but it’s true in most Democratic districts here.) Black Democratic politicians, for instance, might rail against the evil white corporations who are “keeping us down,” but when voters aren’t looking, they’re taking money from those same evil white businessmen and socializing with them, with their hands out at every opportunity.
The entire system today is about hiding what candidates really believe so they can get into office and remain in office.
Katz is a hypocrite, to put it mildly. But many, many of the politicians that some of you trust are just as hypocritical when they’re out of your view. They’re telling you whatever you want to hear. They want power, money and prestige — and they’ll say whatever they need to say in order to have it.
(This clearly applies to candidates who want to have a chance of being elected. Fringe candidates have the luxury of telling the truth, because they’re going to lose anyway.)
It’s good sport to make fun of hypocrites, but it doesn’t really do a lot of good. Katz might end up being thrown out of office — just maybe — but there are thousands more just like him, waiting to take his place.
I’m not here to defend Steve Katz. I’m just warning you that his hypocrisy isn’t the real problem. The real problem is a system that is broken on a fundamental level. To concentrate on the individual hypocrite misses the point. Attack the entire corrupt, hypocritical system, not just the random hypocrite who happens to get caught.