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Two Contradictory Thoughts About Elections

Vitaliy Katsenelson's picture


The election is over. I am left with two very contradictory feelings. First is the one of appreciation – every four years we peacefully replace our government.


I remember my parents in the late 1970s discussing Soviet politics at our house with their close friend. Their friend said something anti-Soviet. I vividly remember the fear in my mother’s eyes when she realized I had overheard that part of the conversation. Views that were contrary to “politics of the party” were not tolerated. If I repeated what I heard in kindergarten, my teacher could report it to authorities and my parents (not me) would get in trouble – a six-year-old kid could only hear this sort of anti-Soviet talk at home (TV, radio, and newspapers were a pro-Soviet propaganda machine). My parents would not be sent to the gulag, but they could lose their jobs. If this sounds farfetched, my father’s best friend, a colleague and professor at Murmansk Marine Academy, was fired for possession of anti-Soviet propaganda – a copy of Solzenitsyn’s Gulag Archipelago. It took him years to get another job, and it was almost twenty years later, when Soviet Union fell apart, that he was finally able to get a decent teaching job.


We do tend to take our democratic elections for granted and under appreciate the fact that we can openly express our views. But there is also the other, new feeling, one of disgust. Yes, disgust. There is something deeply wrong with the US election process. Between the presidential candidates and the congressional races $4.2 billion was spent (wasted) on the election. To spend that kind of money, first you have to raise it. Politicians whore around the country and sell their souls and beliefs to whomever will give them the most money. And here is the sad truth: if you don’t raise money the other guy will, and then he can outspend you – he can slaughter you, as his lies will be magnified louder with TV and radio ads, and the victory will be his. As I am writing this I am realizing that allowing politicians to spend unlimited amounts of money on elections is not unlike allowing steroids in sport – even the strongest athlete will lose to a weaker opponent who is pumped on steroids.


Also, this election process will turn even a very honorable person into a liar or half-truth teller, because it is simply impossible to express complex ideas in thirty-second sound bites. Even during the presidential debates, where candidates were allowed a few minutes to make their case, every claim both candidates made had to be fact checked the next morning. We must be scratching an all-time low in politics when we feel the need to fact check the statements of the candidates running for the highest office in the land, the President of the United States, the office that should be the moral compass for the country. If we accept lies and half-truths from them as politics as usual, what do you expect from just a mortal senator or a congressman?


The partisan politics of this country is simply insane. I observed both Republican and Democrat friends who are otherwise rational people that I deeply respect turning into mindless robots when the conversation turned to politics. It seemed that their cognitive abilities to think were wiped and replaced by a party program as they mindlessly repeated half-truths and lies that were propagated by the party mothership, without any critical thinking of their own. It was simply scary.


But there is a silver lining with US politics. Call me a disillusioned optimist, but no matter what the outcome of the election, this country has and will continue to survive bad congressmen, senators, and even bad presidents.


Vitaliy N. Katsenelson, CFA, is Chief Investment Officer at Investment Management Associates in Denver, Colo. He is the author of The Little Book of Sideways Markets (Wiley, December 2010). To receive Vitaliy’s future articles by email, click here or read his articles here.


Investment Management Associates Inc. is a value investing firm based in Denver, Colorado. Its main focus is on growing and preserving wealth for private investors and institutions while adhering to a disciplined value investment process, as detailed in Vitaliy Katsenelson’s Active Value Investing (Wiley, 2007) book.


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Tue, 11/13/2012 - 00:38 | 2975163 leesajhon123
leesajhon123's picture

William replacing government is not easy but not difficult too if all peoples decides they will not support current Govt then everything is possible.


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Mon, 11/12/2012 - 14:04 | 2973269 the grateful un...
the grateful unemployed's picture

Obama is Bush in most ways. why would he give up the power, only sociopaths rise to that level of leadership. world politics is like poker, you need to be a good liar, and the Americans usually elect the best liar of the two. Democrats always lie about Progress, yes little ducklings the future is bright. Republicans lie about the past, when the decks were made of wood and the men were made of steel, as though no one today could ever make a moral decision (and most of them are thieves too, after they've taken away your power to hold anyone in judgement. Democrats like to be cautious of judging anyone, because it keeps them out of jail too.)

a fiscal deficit is a theft, money the politicans don't have, which goes from one place to another (and ulitmately in the pockets of the rich) if the politician is deft the redistribution of wealth causes economic gain, if he's a fool or a plutocrat it goes down a rathole, swiss bank accounts, offshore banks, (which is why Bushes deficit were so bad, it was counter productive, at least Reagans deficits produced some growth)

but the capacity of american voters to vote against their best interest is legendary. i would say the ignorant college students who put Obama back in office will get a hard lesson out of it. at least Bush gave america that taste of revenge with his zenophobia, mexicans (trillion dollar fence) and muslims. sometimes the reptile brain is the best part of the man, or woman and the politicians know where all the skeletons are buried. they will always bring out the worst in you. Obama has made a lot of people use the N word (see woman in Oregon who got fired for tweeting it) who wouldn't think of it.

but that's what politicians do

Mon, 11/12/2012 - 21:27 | 2974708 StychoKiller
StychoKiller's picture

Hmm, Cargo-cult politics -- lemme tune the painted-rock radio and get dem planez back down here...

Mon, 11/12/2012 - 13:38 | 2973150 williambanzai7
williambanzai7's picture

Vitaly you don't get it. The secret is we don't replace our government.

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