Smart politicians pay heed to early disenchantment from voters. Why? Because to be forewarned is to be forearmed. Voter grumbling and voter discontentment at specific matters usually mark the beginning of political downturn for governments.
Public disgruntlement can be diverted, but it is extremely difficult to change a negative narrative once it begins.
When the grumbling starts early in the governing process, it does damage to the government’s political and economic agenda. History has shown that once a narrative begins early in a government’s term it is difficult to change that trajectory. Why? Because voters are not very forgiving when they feel they are not being sold the truth on matters concerning their welfare and governance.
If voters voted for accountable, transparent and honest governance, then that is what they expect from day one. If on day one any of these three factors is breached, then there is a savaging of the “trust factor.”
When trust is lost, governing becomes much more difficult. There is suspicion. The street narrative — crucial to small community governance — goes negative. Once the “negative chat” begins, it becomes near impossible to turn that chat around. Governing, instead of being a pleasant walk in the park, becomes a trudge through a treacherous swamp.
Politicians and political parties have one thing in common in most countries: They are held in very low esteem by voters. This is nothing new. The world over, politicians are seen as a necessary evil. But some sage mind stated once that the democratic system is the worst form of government — apart from all the rest.
Now the problem with an early narrative that goes south is that it takes on the force of gravity. It can become nearly impossible to change the trajectory from a race to the bottom. And even when the government does things right, the good work it does is under a dark cloud.
A great example is Brexit. After the Brexit referendum was won in 2016, the United Kingdom voter, or at least the 52 percent who voted for Brexit, believed that there would be a clean and swift break away from the European market. This was what was sold the British voter at the start of the Theresa May government.
However the UK prime minister has been unable to deliver. And today UK politics is in meltdown and Brexit appears doomed.
The root cause of the present Brexit dilemma is the simple fact that government failed to tell the public just how difficult severing the cord with Europe would be. This was a lack of transparent, accountable and honest governance.
The preceding is what happens when a government loses the confidence of the voter. And when that confidence is lost early in a term of governance, this is very ominous for any government. Voter and public support is the oxygen of governance.
When a government is trusted and the people are on board in terms of their engagement in a transparent, accountable and honest process, governing is a pleasure.
Goals and objectives are easily achieved. The government is united and strong. And the government is frequently assured of continuing political and election success.
The opposite is the case when a government loses the trust of the public. Its vision is impossible to achieve. There is skulduggery and backstabbing within the government. And future election success is far from guaranteed.
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