Politicians are in the business of gaining political power. In some countries this means military power; in many democracies it means electoral power. This note focuses on the latter.
In the United States, campaigns can cost a lot of money, so our politicians are also in the business of building up a campaign treasury.
In order to gain votes, politicians need to appeal to a wide variety of voters; so the politicians learn to avoid taking absolute positions or speaking out against specific policies. In contrast, politicians rely on negative criticism of other politicians and parties. They urge voters to ally with a party, to regard a defeat of the other party as a win for the voters.
Politicians look into the future only as far as the next election. They provide immediate benefits to their constituents in order to gain votes.
Successful politicians have charisma and popular appeal, the ability to make a good first impression, and the ability to speak knowledgeably about issues. Those who seek higher elected office should also be free of personal character flaws, especially those that could be considered immoral or unethical. Perhaps the most common failing of politicians is a belief that they can engage in private behavior without impact on their public image.
Incumbent politicians have a high probability of reelection, so long as they respond to their constituents.
Politicians affiliate with parties to help win election, and to maintain some political power even when defeated, which they accomplish by securing an appointive political office or a party office or a position as a political lobbyist.
I believe that a great deal of the dissatisfaction with politicians comes from people who have unreasonable expectations that their politicians will be statesmen and take a long-term view. There is no logical link between politics and statesmanship. If we bear in mind that politicians are people whose business is winning elections, we will not be disappointed, because they attend to this business quite handily.
If we want people in government who try to guide the world toward the best interests of future generations, we should not look to politicians.