Why All This Political Cynicism?

And there never is a vote on most bills. Only a relative few actually reach the full body of the House or the Senate, so introducing or co-sponsoring a bill is better evidence, Sulkin said.

Why the Bum Rap?

But are politicians really getting a bum rap and, if so, why all this cynicism? That may be partly the fault of the politicians themselves.

"Part of it is the candidates accuse each other of not keeping promises," she said. "You hear that as a common critique."

And if you hear it often enough, it must be true, right?

It's probably safe to say that most campaign promises are never fully met. Once in office, it's not easy for one congressperson, or one senator, to sway fellow politicians. Even good intentions may not lead to fruitful results.

And times change. Remember when the big issue in this country was the war in Iraq? Seems like just yesterday, before we felt somebody tugging at our wallets. Voters, Sulkin noted, want to see results, something concrete to show that a promise was kept, and that isn't always possible.

Unfortunately, some politicians promote dreams that they surely must know will not come true. It may be a popular issue with the folks back home, but not all the campaign contributors are going to get a tax break, or a new highway, or a raise in entitlements.

But, according to Sulkin, even if the goal is unrealistic, the issue will be much more likely to be pursued by officeholders who mentioned it, than by those who didn't.

What they say in their ads, she added, is a good predictor of what they are likely to do, or at least try to do, if elected.

By the way, want to know the two issues that were the least mentioned in all those ads? Children's issues, and civil rights.

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