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The three Rs of politics

Live from Saipan By Zaldy Dandan

Saipan — There are two kinds of people who like saying “I want it now!”: kids and voters. And like doting parents, politicians fall over each other to assure voters that Mick Jagger is wrong: you can always get what you want — as long as you “vote wisely”; that is, if you vote for said politicians.

Will voters ever wise up? Some of them do, eventually, but voters are people, and people are busy with their lives and coping with personal problems which usually involve their loved ones, their livelihood and minor and not-so-minor irritants that we all have to deal with each day.

That’s why many us of prefer — and demand — easy answers and/or “solutions” to society’s “problems” from politicians. That’s why we want to see the candidates’ platforms, and know their educational backgrounds, their experience, and their moral character. That’s why we “go out and vote.”

We believe that choosing the right people to do the right thing the right way is the point of a democratic election. I can’t recall an election in which a majority of voters supported candidates who promised to make things worse. And yet, it seems that in every election year, a lot of voters complain about elected officials who made things worse.

And so it goes, every election year. This year in the CNMI, voters will once again elect candidates they trust. And in the next election year, it is more than likely that the same voters will complain about the untrustworthiness of the same candidates.

No candidate for election will make a promise s/he knows s/he cannot fulfill. But a candidate who cannot make such promises is unlikely to win.


As political writer Andrew C. McCarthy would put it, “no one ever went broke underestimating the memory of voters.” Just ask the Philippines’ newly elected president.

In the CNMI, the political “pundits” (i.e., those who post comments on social media or on a newspaper website) are saying these are the worst of times, and that this year’s election should be “the most consequential” in Northern Marianas history. These grave pronouncements usually come from “concerned citizens” who can barely recall what happened a month ago. Everything is “unprecedented” if you can’t find anything comparable on Google. Hence, the dire need for change! Which, after an election, usually means a change or reshuffling of top-level personnel. That’s the change we can believe in.

The other political camp, for its part, says things could have been worse, but some things are improving, and they will get better “as long as we don’t change horses midstream.”

Which brings us to the three Rs of politics: Reduce (specifics), Reuse (generalities), Recycle (banalities).

But I must also concede that well-meaning people go into politics because they are well-meaning. They truly believe they can be “a force for good” if elected to office.


Samuel Johnson (1709-1784) once said, “No man but a blockhead ever wrote, except for money.” After 32 years in the writing profession, I finally see his point. And after reading, thinking and writing about politics during the same period of time, I now realize that besides well-meaning folks with well-meaning intentions, the only truly sensible people who are into politics are those who expect to get a job or a contract when their candidates win.

Like religion, however, politics will always attract low information obsessives — or kooks, to quote another political writer, Kevin D. Williamson. “Democrat or Republican, Left or Right,” he said, “there will always be a contingent of kooks — conspiracy nuts, people who dream about overthrowing the government, fanatics who believe that we would be well on our way to utopia if we just made one big policy change, etc... Every kook has a class of kulaks he wants to liquidate.”

In any case, if you’re not a politician or a professional political writer, consultant or operative, you should, for the sake of your sanity, try to avoid airing your political beliefs in public, and instead consider researcher and economist Joakim Book’s advice: “Purge [politics] from your being as much as you possibly could, and refuse to let political issues invade the areas of our lives that we cherish; politics and political disagreements don’t belong there, and our lives are too important to let them be ruled by (mostly contrived) political disagreements.”

Zaldy Dandan is editor of the NMI’s oldest newspaper, Marianas Variety. His fourth book, If He Isn’t Insane Then He Should Be: Stories & Poems from Saipan, is available on

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