Serve the Servants their Just Desserts
We don’t need political leaders. In a true democracy there should be no leaders at all. The place of a leader is to make decisions for others. They tell us how it’s going to be, when by rights it should be us telling them. What we need, and what would be far more democratic, would be for us to have political servants. For this country to be a true functioning democracy, it must be made an impossibility for politicians and government apparatuses to act against the will of the people or to put themselves above the people. We must put them on our level or lower.
Talk of political leaders and powerful government officials is often couched in the language of service. They talk about their “service” to the country or whatever state, “serving in office,” they are sometimes described as “public servants,” and are often thanked by pundits and politicos for their “service.” As with much of American political rhetoric it’s a misrepresentation of the situation, describing it as it should be but not at all as it is. The majority of politicians serve the financial interests of the country’s industries and wealthiest individuals, not “the people.” They cannot say that they are working for the American people when the majority or a strong plurality disagrees with what they’re doing, and even many of those that may be in agreement with them are not actually being served.
Our political leaders, like the aristocratic class of any society, like most leaders, work in service to their own benefit and not in service to those they’re meant to, and claim to, represent. We therefore need to strip most powers and virtually all benefits from politicians, remove the incentives for selfishness, ensure that they actually represent and serve the people. Lower salaries, reduced benefits, strict laws preventing any form of personal enrichment, stripping of all powers besides those which are strictly essential to their job of doing what we the people want. Politicians, from mayors to congresspeople to presidents, should be in the same class as postal workers and public school teachers. Instead of mostly White and mostly male millionaires, our politicians should be as diverse and lower-to-middle class as much of the public sector workforce is. Rather than a political class of opportunistic narcissists, we need politicians who, like teachers and postal workers, or firefighters and sanitation workers, or community organizers and library workers, do their job, not because they plan to get rich, and despite its difficulties and demands, but because they love it or simply because it’s what they’re good at and a way to make a living.
No politician should be doing more than making a living. The best they get out of their careers should be a comfortable three-bedroom house and a lack of crippling debt, like most of the people they’re supposed to represent would be happy to have. Further, politics should be a field that people are not eager but reluctant to get into for its great time-consuming difficulty and the rigorous accountability enforced by constituents. Politicians should be as overworked, unrested, and under pressure as the majority of the American labor force. Every day should be a struggle for them to meet our demands, and the punishments for their failures should be harsh. It should be a job that hardly anyone would ever want to do, to ensure that only the right people end up doing it.
The United States promotes a rhetoric of rugged individualism for all its people, when in reality we enable the elevation of a few individuals over the rugged masses. I’ve argued before in favor of fully participatory democracy, in which every citizen has a say, a vote on every law, bill, or action the government plans to take, over the sham of plutocratic “representative democracy” that we’re hobbled by. Barring the imminence of that utopic future, we at least need radical reform to the current system. We need to make politics a thankless and selfless profession, and we need to treat politicians like servants.