It’s a profit deal


(Navin:) “For one dollar I'll guess your weight, your height, or your sex.”

~ Steve Martin as Navin R. Johnson in The Jerk

I’ve had it.

This year, I wanted to become more involved in politics. I don’t consider myself a Republican, a Democrat, or a member of any other organized political party. I find myself agreeing with general concepts that can be found belonging to either of the major parties, and disagreeing with several of their ideas as well. My hope for every election becomes trying to find out enough so that I can answer three basic questions:

1. Do I trust this person or these people?

2. What positions do I agree with and what ones do I disagree with?

3. How will this person or these people being in office change my life?

Sure, pretty basic stuff… trust, common interests, and what about me. Nothing shocking there.

Have you ever heard of hot buttons? The basic concept is that each and every one of us has one or more hot buttons… or subjects that we’re interested in, and they get us to sit up straight and pay a bit more attention when they become involved in anything. They can be broad categories… love, money, self-preservation… or you could make a case for more specific items… sports, crafts and so on. In essence though, when it comes to sales or marketing or even politics, the idea is the same for politicians (my words): “Tell me what you want to hear and I’ll say it to you. I want to reach you, so I want to find a hot button topic to talk about.”

And so I look at Bush-Cheney and Kerry-Edwards and I apply those three questions. This year, more than ever, I wanted to make a sound judgment. Wanted to do the research. Wanted to have an open mind.

But in typical political campaigning, all I see are groups trying to tell me what they think I want to hear. Trying to tell me how evil and misguided the other group is.

(Frosty:) “Navin, you have taken in fifteen dollars and given away fifty cents worth of crap, which gives us a net profit of fourteen dollars and fifty cents.”

(Navin:) “Ah! It's a profit deal! That takes the pressure off!”

~ Dick O’Neill as Frosty and Steve Martin as Navin R. Johnson in The Jerk

I’m going to paraphrase for a second, because I absolutely love the sentiments, but for the life of me I can’t recall who told me the following or the exact words. Both of these ideas I first came across at least twenty years ago while in high school: (1) Anyone qualified to be president doesn’t want the job. Anyone that actually wants to be president isn’t qualified enough to vote for. (2) The only thing Richard Nixon did that other presidents didn’t do was get caught.

Once, when writing about a comment from Al Gore days after Election Day in 2000, I said overall that Gore and George Bush “have such strong politically oriented family traditions that the phrase uttered to a ten-year-old child, ‘someday you could be president’, was a realistic career possibility.”

Read that one more time… “‘someday you could be president’, was a realistic career possibility.”

If you really believe that the people running for president are doing it because of some well-intended, altruistically-based motivation to serve the people and the country, then you’re nuts. I’ll be generous and say that might be a part of it… might… but let’s not go thinking that really matters as a top concern.

I have this running joke when I meet new staff members where I work. At the company orientation they tell these recently hired employees how great everything is, that the company is fantastic, and that the people are wonderful. And I understand why they do it… These are new team members that have enthusiasm for their new job, their new employer and their new co-workers. They may also be scared or apprehensive about starting over or trying something they’ve never done before. So naturally you would want them to believe that the company is great, the job is secure, and the staff is amazing. It’s not only what you want them believe, in a way it’s what they need to hear as they get started.

But let’s be serious. As much as I love the place and think they do offer some great things overall… it’s a job. Our entire staff is not standing around in a field, holding hands and singing songs. Some of us don’t really like each other. There are things we benefit from in ways we wouldn’t find anyplace else, and there are some things we wish could be different.

If the politicians believe we need to hear something such as (yes, again, my words)… “I love this country, and I love its people. Hard-working, compassionate, decent people. And that’s why I want to be your president. So I can represent you and make sure you get the government you deserve.”… well, so be it. It makes for great commercials. But let’s not all head out into the hills preparing to sing. It’s politics. Everyone is saying it. No one believes it. It’s just what they need to say, and what some of us need to hear.

Politics… it is what it is… and there’s a reason people want to take part.

(Navin:) “Things are going to start happening to me now.”

~ Steve Martin as Navin R. Johnson in The Jerk

So as we approach the last two months before the 2004 election, get ready. Things are heating up. All sides are preparing their message and creating their spin. And I am reminded of the greatest bumper sticker I ever saw. “Don’t blame me, I voted for…” The election and who the person voted for isn’t important. The message is… Don’t go crying and whining about the government you get if you can’t take the time to investigate the candidates. Don’t go crying and whining about the government you get if you can’t make the time to vote.

I don’t care who you vote for. I’m going to investigate things in my way, and I hope you do the same. I’m fortunate to have some solid information already, and some great people, with opinions I value tremendously, passing along additional material to me every day. And I hope you move ahead without blinders on, open to ideas and information so that you can make the best decision possible for yourself.

But let’s not be misled about this. It’s about these groups deciding what we want to hear and what interests us. It’s about what they want to get from winning. It’s about what we end up with.

It’s politics. And politics are driven, behind the curtain, by profits… or at least dollars… and there is sage advice to be found, often when all else fails, by following the money.

If you have any comments or questions, please e-mail me at