I had an interesting conversation, as I often do with the friends I was with, about politics. The question was prompted by discussion about student-group politics at the University of Michigan. The opinion of my other two conversation partners was that politics is a not so great thing (their opinions were stronger, but I'll just leave it at that).
I disagree, I think politics can be done well and I would embrace politics, if a political actor adhered to the following three rules. Politics should be considered an honorable profession, instead of a opportunitic one.
The three rules that political actors should follow. If they did, maybe "politician" wouldn't be as dirty a word:
1) The ethics rule
Figure out what is right and what is wrong. Spend most of your time doing this, not campaigning. Obviously, on some issues it's really hard to figure out what is right and what is wrong. Unfortunately for politicians, they cannot hide behind this because they have to vote on whether they agree or disagree. Use the people around you: constituents, staff members, the party, whatever...and use your own values. Do the best you can, don't fake it. We'll know. Then proceed to rule number 2.
2) The no-bullshit rule
Articulate your viewpoint to your constituents, honestly. You must do this, and not just give a "bullshit reason" about actions or a vote. It is your responsibility to communicate and if you make an action then you must be honest about it. There is NO way around this rule. People need this information to evaluate you as a representative. If you don't do this, you are cheating your constituients.
3)The vulnerability rule
You must be willing to lose--elections, support, etc. This, I think is the most fundamental of the three rules, if a politician is not willing to lose, they will be incapable of implementing rules number 1 and 2. This is because they will be too focused on figuring out the difference between a winning move and a losing move rather than right and wrong just as they will focus on telling people what they want to hear instead of telling the truth.
If all politicians followed these rules, I think people would be a lot less skeptical of them.
Some say that the whole point is winning the game, because things don't get done without playing the game. I disagree, people want honest leaders who do what is right. If you follow these rules, you will be elected time and time again...truth wins over falsity. At the very least, your honor will be presevered in the long term. If you follow these rules and you do lose, it just means you're not the right person for the job at that place and time.