I Learned This Lesson Over 20 Years Ago: Politicians Will Always Disappoint You

The first presidential election I really paid attention to and voted in, was in 1992. It would be a couple of years before I would become a full blown conservative, celebrating the takeover of Congress by the GOP and this younger guy from Arkansas seemed intriguing as did the little weird guy from Texas. My concern with President George HW Bush is that he seemed to not really want the job. It almost came off as an annoyance to him. Perhaps my impressions were wrong given my age (22) and my lack of experience when it came to politics but that is my recollection.


I wound up voting for Bill Clinton and one of the reasons was his direct promise of a middle class tax cut. It was surprising move coming from a Democrat but GHWB rightly lost favor with many voters for his broken promise to not raise taxes. It was so bad, the Clinton campaign used, “Read my lips. No new taxes” against Bush despite the fact Clinton was running on increasing taxes over and above what Bush put in place. So while Bill Clinton was promising tax increases, he was tempering that with promises of cuts on the other side.

Clinton won the election and naturally, one of the first things he did in 1993 was go on television and in that Arkansas drawl of his tell the public of just how hard he worked on doing the math to implement that middle class tax cut. But he just couldn’t do it.


Fast forward to 1994 and the release of Bob Woodward’s book, ‘The Agenda.’ Covering the first 18 months of the Clinton administration, Woodward detailed how the Clinton economic team had pretty much abandoned the notion of any kind of middle class tax cut soon after he won the election. Clinton hadn’t even been inaugurated and it was an idea they said needed to be scrapped.

It was a lesson I have carried forward in all the time I have been involved in politics. It is a mantra I still stand by and one that I pass along to others.

Politicians are always……always……going to disappoint you. 


In the movie, ‘Primary Colors’, there is a scene where Billy Bob Thornton’s character says to Adrian Lester’s, “You have TB.” TB in that case meant “True believerism” — the condition people suffer from when they learn the candidate they support is not the rock they believed them to be. There was a similar theme in the movie, ‘The Ides of March’ with George Clooney and Ryan Gosling.

Both were examples of art imitating life, not the other way around. Politicians, as Kim said, are going to ‘politician.’ When Marco Rubio said he would support Donald Trump, there were a lot of Cruz supporters who became very sanctimonious in their attitude towards Rubio and his supporters. To be fair, there were a number of Rubio supporters making excuses for him and I wasn’t having any of it. When Cruz made his convention speech, the sanctimony got worse.

I told them (warned, really), “It would be great if Cruz held out, but don’t be surprised if he winds up endorsing Trump.” There were howls of laughter, sneers and guffaws at the very notion that Cruz would do such a thing. There is just no way Cruz would endorse somebody who said the things he did about Heidi Cruz. There is no chance Cruz would endorse after Trump accused Rafael Cruz of being part of a conspiracy to assassinate John F. Kennedy.

And yet, here we are. Cruz endorsed Trump. Trump, after saying he wouldn’t accept Cruz’s endorsement, accepted Cruz’s endorsement.


It sounds terrible, buy it’s almost a requirement to approach politics with a degree of cynicism. We want to think the politicians we support are all like Jefferson Smith, ready to take on Washington DC first and then, the world. The reality is, self interest and political survival take center stage for most politicians, no matter the circumstances.

When we accept that reality, it’s easier to deal with the fallout when a politician does something they’d swore they’d never do or fail to do something they promised us they would.

Ted Cruz is certainly not the first politician to disappoint supporters. And he will not be the last.



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