Chocolate and Gold Coins

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Why Do We Vote for Bad People?

I thought about this question in reading a couple of posts about Laloo of Bihar by Greatbong here and here. But it isn’t just Laloo. Some constituency elected Prakash Karat as well. Who would vote for a communist? Who would vote for Mayawati or Jayalalita or Karunanidhi? Or in the US, who would vote for Jesse Helms or for Huey Long or Richard Nixon?

If no one had voted for Hitler and his Nazis, then he would have been unable to seize power in Germany. The same is true for Mugabe in Zimbabwe and Chavez in Venezuela.

We vote for bad people by default. Good people opt out of politics, calling it a “dirty game” which, of course, it is. But why is it so dirty? Why? because honest people choose not to play it.

Another reason we vote for bad people is that we get sucked into their logical trap. They always turn a group of blues into dark blues and light blues. They will tell the dark blues, “I’m one of you. Either you vote for me or one of THEM.”

I had this idea once. Suppose everyone, by law, had to run for office. Suppose the election were run like a gigantic knockout tournament – like Wimbledon with 30 rounds. We could not all vote in every election but maybe 50 could vote in each of the first round elections and then 60 in the second and so on until you got to the last few round and then everyone votes. You would have to vote in maybe 80 elections, but it would be possible.

Who would get elected? If Laloo came up against your mom, I doubt he would stand a chance.


  • I guess it is a valid question. In most elections in india you are faced with an diffcult choice. In such circumstances you choose what you consider the lesser of the two evils. e.g. you have mentioned jayalalitha in your post. People of Tamil nadu have to choose between Jayalalitha and karunanidhi. Not much of a choice eh! If I were to vote I would vote for jayalalitha all the time. The reason being for all her foibles she is able to take decisions that a seasoned politician would never dream of taking. She is tough and though she and her coterie might be corrupt.

    However we are assuming here that Chavez, Prakash Karat, Mayawati, Jayalalita or Karunanidhi are bad and evil. Is it for us to make that judgement?

    By Blogger oddan, at 1:07 AM  

  • Why are Americans so worried about Chavez ? I mean, the guy came to power in a proper election (unlike many of the other dictatorships like Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia, which the US supports and holds up, and where there is no concept of democracy). If the Venezuelan people want him to be their leader, then, it is their choice. Who is the US, or the EU or anyone else to say who the Venezuelan people should elect as their leader ?

    Just because he is not friendly with the US, doesn't mean he is automatically bad. He is not the one threatening to invade other countries. He is not funding (arms and money) to insurgencies within the US. So, why so much angst ?

    He is fighting what he thinks is a domineering country, but, with perfectly legitimate international means (aka diplomacy, trade etc). I think US needs to appreciate Chavez for doing what he is doing. Even though he is fighting the US Govt, he still has directed his state-owned companies to supply gas at a huge discount (40% or 60%) in the Massachussets state, where there were some heating oil issues.

    Maybe I am too obtuse, but, I just don't get it...

    By Blogger theesra, at 1:37 AM  

  • I think we vote for bad people because they are the right people for the job. I will explain this in a separate post.

    By Anonymous Ravikiran, at 5:48 AM  

  • Hi Oddan, Theesra, Ravikiran

    Oddan: Indeed Tamils must be a remarkable people to survive decades of bad rule and still have something like civilization in their state. I will inspect the damage in a few days.

    I suppose it is valid criticism that I am not in position to say who is and who is not a bad leader in some other place. But there is no doubt that there are such people that come to power. The question is, why do people vote for them?

    Theesra: I don't know much about Chavez other than he is a dictator that overthrew democracy in Venezuela and he loves Castro. I think if I knew him better I would probable like him less.

    Ravikiran: I look forward to your post. But I have to hope you are being facetious in suggesting that Laloo is the right person for government service.

    By Blogger Michael Higgins, at 9:29 AM  

  • Hi Michael,

    Here in Germany, I have been taking a class on the history of the German economy. Hitler's rise to power can be mainly attributed to the Great Depression which spread around the world in the late 1920s/early 1930s. People in Germany were desperate for someone to improve their lives, and Hitler was able to exploit this desperation. Many people actually believed that his vow to exterminate Jewish "parasitism" from Germany would do wonders for the health of the German economy. I think this is the case when many bad politicians are elected. They might be political idiots, but they are good at manipulating large groups of people.


    By Blogger Vikram A., at 12:12 PM  

  • Hi Vikram
    At the time Hitler came to power, the commmunists were also vying for power in Germany. The classic horrible choice: Nazis or Communists.

    By Blogger Michael Higgins, at 6:09 PM  

  • This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    By Blogger Old Path, at 12:33 PM  

  • "I don't know much about Chavez other than he is a dictator that overthrew democracy in Venezuela and he loves Castro."
    I don't understand why did you call Chavez a dictator when he was democratically elected by the people of Venezuela ? How can one criticize another when one don't know the other person or what is going on in other country? I am not a communist but I cannot agree with what you said. As far as I understand he has the mandate of 70% of the people of Venezuela. As Theesra said "if the Venezuelan people want him to be their leader, then, it is their choice". Same is the case with Indira Gandhi, Jayalalitha or Prakash Karat. They were people's choices. If people's choices are limited then it is the limitation of the democracy. This is same in United Stats, India or in Venezuela. If Chandrababu Naidu (in Andra Pradesh)was ousted in the election, then that was because people of Andra Pradesh had made a choice. I believe no one have any right to judge or criticize the people's mandate in a democratic system (if you go by the definition of democracy).

    By Blogger Old Path, at 1:05 PM  

  • Madhu Nair
    It is my understanding, from what I have read, that there is no democracy in Venezuela at the moment. Chavez may have been legitimately been elected president of Venezuela at some point but not recently.

    Perhaps a less controversial example would have been Alberto Fujimoro who was legitimately elected President of Peru and then became a tyrant. This is an excellent example of the people electing bad people.

    The issue is not whether I like Fujimoro, Laloo, Jayalalitha, or Chavez. The issue is whether these people served the best interests of the people they were entrusted to serve. The general feeling is that the answer is "no - these people did not care about the best interests of the people, they cared for themselves only" and I am asking the question "why do we vote for these people?".

    By Blogger Michael Higgins, at 4:04 PM  

  • cant comprehend the practical implementation of "knockout tournament"

    i think many vote for bad because the "good" dont bring lots of money.
    that means no ticket in a major political party.

    i think its the fear of the unknown, which is perhaps deeprooted in us (:D )

    after all dont they say a known devil is better than an unknown angel?

    hmmm makes one wonder.

    By Blogger wise donkey, at 5:00 AM  

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