There are politicians who are serious about solving the public's problems, and politicians who will demogogue any issue in order to get themselves elected.
For example, I was very impressed with the voters of both parties in Alabama this week.
On Tuesday, Republican voters in Alabama renominated incumbent Governor Bob Riley in his race against Judge Roy Moore, while Democratic voters chose Lucy Baxter, a newcomer to statewide races, over former Governor Don Siegelman. Both Moore and Siegelman would have been very poor choices, men who were apparently willing to do whatever it took to get elected.
Moore, you may recall, willingly and knowingly violated his oath of office in not only failing to uphold the decisions made by higher courts, all the way up to the Supreme Court, but himself having a big stone image engraved with the ten commandments placed inside the rotunda of his courthouse (the irony of the fact that his 'weapon of choice' in the culture war was a graven image which contained right there on it a prohibition against graven images was apparently lost on Moore). He then demogogued the issue until the ten commandments were forcibly removed from the building at very nearly the same time as Moore was forcibly removed from his judicial position. That didn't stop his demogoguing though as he went on tour with the stone monument as he ran for Governor. Luckily, Alabama Republicans, despite Riley's reversal on a 'no-new-taxes' pledge he made the last time he ran (once he saw the real state budget, reality trumped ideology) renominated him and by a margin wide enough that perhaps Moore realizes now how he made (shall I say it?) a monumental miscalculation.
On the Democratic side, the issue was Siegelman. As the Democratic governor who lost narrowly to Riley in 2002, and in a Democratic year, Siegelman might have had a chance, had he put the interests of the people of Alabama first. But he did not. First, as some of you may recall, Siegelman refused to concede the election in 2002, despite the fact that the margin, though close, was wide enough that it was certain that he had lost. As long as there is a realistic chance that an election could still turn, it makes sense to withhold a concession. But once it is clear who will take the oath of office, (including in rare cases when the courts have decided it) then to continue to fight it is futile, and to do so only makes most voters consider you to be desperate and classless. That is why Al Gore is listened to today and respected (he in the end realized when it was time to concede and did so with class) while Dino Rossi is a joke. Siegelman made himself a joke by refusing to concede a race that he had clearly lost. But that pales beside what came next. Siegelman was indicted on multiple counts of corruption while in the statehouse. So his concern about losing the election was not for the people of Alabama at all. It was about his 1) losing a reliable source of income, and I don't mean just the Governor's salary, and 2) suddenly no longer being in a position where he could cover up his own misdeeds. During the campaign, Siegelman attended his Federal corruption trial during the day and campaigned at night. He was actually not even trying to win, just to make it into a runoff, where he might be able to tear down his opponent and squeak out a nomination, then try to come up with some rabbit-out-of-the-hat to beat Riley (or Moore, who he must have been hoping would be the Republican nominee). Fortunately Alabama Democrats rejected the whole sad, sick Siegelman spectacle and coalesced around another candidate, giving Baxter the outright majority she needed to avoid a runoff.
In no state was the choice as clearly this week between candidates who had their own self-interest in mind, and candidates who took the term, 'public servant' seriously. And Alabama voters-- of both parties-- made the right decision.