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Posted on Thu, Apr 25, 2013 : 8 a.m.

Politicians must have an objective beyond victory

By Robert Faber

For those of us too old or unskilled to compete in the world of professional athletics, choosing favorites from among participating teams, then encouraging them to victory with our shouts and whistles, is a good second choice.

Rooting for our favorite teams as they do battle gives us the pleasures of competition without the embarrassment or exhaustion of participation and defeat. And during the game we can cheer or sneer according to our mood of the moment, without the remorse of having chosen badly. It is, after all, only a game and more than the identity of the winners or losers, it is the thrill of the chase that excites and satisfies us.

Just winning or losing - that is what it’s all about.

Now, fast approaching the magnetic appeal of professional sports is the drama of national political contests as the most interesting and spirited games in town. And as with athletic contests, it is the struggle itself that excites us more than the contestants or the consequences.

american flag.jpg

Unlike sporting events where there is a clear winner, politicians must not focus too heavily on the victory.

Unfortunately, although an aggressive pursuit of victory enlivens the world of competitive sports, using those standards to run our country is a much more dangerous game. Because the primary goal in professional sports is to glorify the players and enrich their sponsor, the difference between victory and defeat is of limited consequence, but the repercussions of victory or defeat in political games go far beyond the playing field.

The impact in the games of politics are infinitely more consequential and yields a much more significant and lasting impact on our world.

Those contests are an essential part of the process by which the democratic principles, as envisioned by our Founders, were to shape this new nation.

The standards they set, spelled out in the Preamble to our Constitution, foresaw “a more perfect Union” focused on “Justice [and] the Blessings of Liberty...“ Unfortunately, in our zeal we seem to have lost the primary point of the exercise, overlooking the sanctity of “the general welfare” and replacing its noble purpose with competitive contests to please a more limited and influential segment of the population, substituting their personal gain for our founding principles.

For a nation to serve the goals sought by our Founders and embraced by our earliest citizens, there must be an objective beyond victory for its own sake.

There should be a moral or philosophical basis for our candidates’ political preferences and legislative performances. Campaigns should include more than just tactics for success - they should reflect the goals of governance on behalf of the entire nation. Whether those solutions are shaped by conservative or liberal philosophies, the focus must be on the well-being of the people - not simply on re-election.

Several decades ago I had the privilege of serving on our City Council, a task to which we all devoted a vast number of hours each week - for no pay beyond the satisfaction of serving our community.

Election to the U.S. Congress is an event rare and wonderful in the life of a patriot, filled with the glory of serving their fellow citizens. But they get paid - as they should.

Unfortunately, they also get paid as they should not - much too often by lobbyists representing industries or businesses who will profit by their actions.

In his second Inaugural Address in 1937, President Franklin Roosevelt reminded us that, “The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little,” adding that, “Government is competent when all who compose it work as trustees for the whole people.”

Not a bad principle by which to govern.

Robert Faber has been a resident of Ann Arbor since 1954. He previously owned a fabric store and later a travel agency. He served a couple of terms on the Ann Arbor City Council. He may be reached at



Thu, Apr 25, 2013 : 10:15 p.m.

Your comment about winning in athletics glorifies the players and enriches sponsors is also true in politics. All one has to do is look at the electees to high office. Their donors (sponsors) are showered with inside deals and favors and the electees are glorified for their efforts at doing little of nothing. This writer isn't sure he would have used FDR as his example, but well written all the same.

Top Cat

Thu, Apr 25, 2013 : 4:59 p.m.

In the early 1960's Hugh Addonizio was a Congressman from New Jersey in a safe seat. He decided to leave the seat to run for Mayor of the City of Newark. When asked why he responded, "I always wanted to be a millionaire". He was a crook but he had an objective!

David Brzezinski

Thu, Apr 25, 2013 : 4:53 p.m.

"Lobbyists do not pay members of Congress. That would be illegal." Don't make me laugh! The Citizens United court case clearly established the ability of anyone (i.e., lobbyists) from filling the coffers of likely candidates and sitting representatives with unlimited funds. You don't think that is "payment"? How about the all expenses paid "informational" trips to Hawaii or Bermuda? Money has clearly corrupted our democracy and lobbyists are the delivery device. If lobbyists and their sponsors were barred by law from providing anything (anything!) to our representatives, then (maybe) I could believe that the reason they get access to our representatives is that they have information our representatives might need. Otherwise their appearance is just to collect on their (substantial) investment.


Thu, Apr 25, 2013 : 6:47 p.m.

Contributions to a superPAC are not the same as payments to candidates. They don't get to pocket that money. I tend to believe it is more likely that people with lots of money will contribute to candidates that already support their positions, not bribe candidates and Congress to adopt them. Sure there are some bad apples out there, but it's nowhere near as common as you imply. Have you ever even met a lobbyist? U of M has its own lobbyist in DC to educate legislators whenever they're dealing with education or research related stuff. How do you expect a legislator to make an educated decision on an issue? Be a supergenius and be an expert on every subject? Have a gigantic staff that contains an expert in every subject? Or listen to experts and stakeholders from every subject, weigh both sides of each issue and make an educated decision? Citizens United held that the 1st Amendment does not allow Congress to limit individuals or groups of individuals from speaking. If you have a message you want spread, you can tell people about it. If you want to reach more people, you can print flyers or buy air time on TV or radio. If multiple people have the same message they want to spread, they can pool their money together in a PAC or Union or Corporation for a more unified effort with greater resources. If your message is popular enough and Congress considers it, they have other stuff going on and limited time they will be willing to spend on your issue. Ten congressmen offer your group 20 minutes to brief them on your issue. Should you go yourself? Or do you hire somebody who knows the process, knows your issue well, knows the Congressman's positions on issues and their philosophy well and is an expert in educating and persuading in a limited window of time? Can you picture a Senator sitting in his office thinking "first side to take me to Bermuda gets my vote!" I'm a pretty skeptical guy but most fears of lobbyists and rampant bribery stem from ignorance and are ridi


Thu, Apr 25, 2013 : 3:46 p.m.

Lobbyists do not pay members of Congress. That would be illegal. Most people have the completely wrong idea of what a lobbyist is and does. Lobbyists are not people who walk into the Capitol Building with a suitcase full of cash and bribe the members until they have enough to pass/defeat whatever bill is on the table. Congressmen are not experts on every topic that comes to their desk, nor can they be expected to be. They have a very short period of time to educate themselves on whatever bills come before them, and their time is very valuable(in the sense that it is high demand, short supply). Suppose they were debating a new regulation on soda manufacturers, it would be irresponsible of members to not meet with representatives of Coke and Pepsi to learn how the regulation would affect their operations. In the interest of being efficient with everyone's time, Coke and Pepsi would sent a lobbyist who is knowledgeable about the issue to explain everything important in as short of time as possible and answer questions. They aren't just mouthpieces of the company pressuring Congress to do what they want at all costs. Congresspeople are just as capable as you and I to know the source of their information and the biases they may have. If a lobbyist came in acting as an advocate for the company rather than as an educator and they are caught in a lie, they would not get invited back. The whole reason lobbyists exist is to quickly inform Congress of issues from the perspectives of all their stakeholders. The more a Congressman has to fact-check everything a lobbyist says, the less time they save and the less value they add to the process. Congress values lobbyists that will tell them the truth and not waste their time.


Thu, Apr 25, 2013 : 3:06 p.m.

"Unfortunately, in our zeal we seem to have lost the primary point of the exercise, overlooking the sanctity of "the general welfare" and replacing its noble purpose with competitive contests to please a more limited and influential segment of the population, substituting their personal gain for our founding principles." What are you talking about? How many members of Congress do you really think there are that do not care about the general population and only care about pleasing the "limited and influential segment"? Would you measure how much they care about the general population by how much they give to a cause personally, or by how much taxpayer money they take from some to benefit others? Just because Congress can't pass legislation to solve all our problems doesn't mean they don't focus on the well being of the people. How in the hell are you supposed to get a majority of 535 highly opinionated people with very different beliefs on what is in the best interest of the people to agree on a solution? I challenge you to name one failed bill that would have passed if Congress' votes were cast in the interest of the people rather than reelection. Or one passed bill that would have failed. And name all the Congresspersons who didn't vote their conscience that made the difference in its passage or failure.


Thu, Apr 25, 2013 : 8:26 p.m.

I think you assume there is more common ground than there actually is. When you say "Something needs to be done about ________" everyone agrees. When you say "[something specific] is what should be done about _______", many would say "No that makes the problem even worse." Ask a Democrat and a Republican which party has been less willing to compromise. They will both say the other guy. It's hard to compromise when the two sides negotiating think the other side's solution will worsen the problem. It's not the politicians' fault, they were elected precisely because of their polar opposite views. When there's plenty of money to go around, there's plenty of compromise to be had on what to spend it on. When the money dries up, they need to agree on both where to spend it and whether it should even be spent at all, making all issues interdependent and a lot tougher to solve.


Thu, Apr 25, 2013 : 5:43 p.m.

"Just because Congress can't pass legislation to solve all our problems doesn't mean they don't focus on the well being of the people." Yes is DOES! Imagine a real life job where you got NOTHING done, yet got to keep your job! Doesn't happen does it? When you are so focused on Winning the Argument that you forget about what you are trying to achieve & on behalf of whom, you've got a problem. When they see they are at an impasse, they would rather take their ball and go home, forgoing the game, verses compromising and finding some common ground to accomplish SOMETHING.


Thu, Apr 25, 2013 : 3:05 p.m.

Faber pulls the pin out of the grenade and runs. Which is somewhat of an improvement over past screeds. Please stick to articles on aging. Thanks.

Linda Peck

Thu, Apr 25, 2013 : 2:39 p.m.

Mr Faber, I agree with you. May I add that the emphasis on competitive sports at the expense of fairness in educating all of our young people contributes to this negative result in politics, and power above righteousness is the fruit it bears.

Dog Guy

Thu, Apr 25, 2013 : 2:09 p.m.

While citizens may be motivated to serve in public office, politicians are motivated only by wealth, power, and adulation. When politicians delight in making generations of people miserable; it is called a legacy. How may we distinguish citizens from politicians? Citizens have a real job and return to it after serving a term or two.


Thu, Apr 25, 2013 : 1:47 p.m.

And water should be wet. What is the point of this article? Other than getting a high five from Ric Romero that is.


Thu, Apr 25, 2013 : 1:34 p.m.

When you can give them the sort of money and power for being principled that the ultra-wealthy can give them for being lapdogs, you might convince them.


Thu, Apr 25, 2013 : 1:27 p.m.

Thank you Mr. Faber as always, well said.


Thu, Apr 25, 2013 : 1:24 p.m.

FWIW: perfidy begins in the political parties. There's no constitutional protection for the "right to truth" constraining any political party. Campaign speeches, especially made in pursuit of our highest offices, are riddled with deceptive "sound bites" and some are slanderous or even outright lies. The real purpose of both parties has become to simply gain as many members, supporters and donors as possible, regardless of whether truthfulness and honesty are maintained. It's not just lobbyists trying to bribe legislatures, it's "fans" of one party or another, bent on seeing that their personal ideology is made dominant. Underlying much of the trouble with our politicians is the cost of campaigning. Candidates are forced to spend money and effort just "to be heard" in the media. Control of the media thus becomes a major factor and any "owners" of the media have "the right" to promote those who speak mostly in their interest. Anyone who calls campaign ads "honest" these days is a fool.


Thu, Apr 25, 2013 : 1:17 p.m.

"Politicians must have an objective beyond victory" And here I thought their main objective was keeping their job. Second to lay the groundwork for a lucrative lobbying job after they lose their job.


Thu, Apr 25, 2013 : 12:44 p.m.

I couldn't agree more thank you for the well written opinion.