Political Leaders and their Voices

November 4, 2011

Political Theory


Often times, political leaders change their viewpoints to match the public’s views. They fear political backlash, which could hinder chances of re-election. However, in doing so, they mask their true voices and don’t do what could be best for the nation.

Through my Amcult 206 class, I have learned about the effects of social and political stigma against fighting the AIDS epidemic. From the 1980s to even now, fear of political backlash has prevented leaders from instigating policy to best fight the epidemic. For years, the issue was completely ignored by political leaders. For instance, Ronald Reagan only addressed HIV and AIDS once during his years of presidency, despite the growing epidemic. Even the one time he addressed the issue, he was advised to address the issue in a certain manner as to not receive backlash from the public eye. Thus, he did not quell fear nor talk about prevention. When AIDS started spreading rapidly in the United States, society believed it only affected IV drug-users or gay members of society. At the time, both groups of people were ostracized and discriminated against in the United States. Thus, political leaders did not want to support these groups of people by fighting the AIDS virus since they were afraid of political scrutiny. This allowed the virus to spread unchecked by political leaders.

Until 2009, federal funding for needle-exchange programs was banned due to fear of political backlash. The public voiced their concerns that enacting such programs would be comparable to directly supporting IV drug users and would hurt the communities in which the programs are offered. However, despite research that these programs considerably reduced the HIV infection rates in the communities the programs were offered while not increasing the rate that non-IV drug users became IV drug-users, it took over 20 years for political leaders to finally allow federal funding. Even today, due to the social stigma of HIV as a sexually transmitted disease, political leaders are fearful to push their true agendas on the issue.

Often, political leaders know what is best for the nation but sometimes refuse to acknowledge their beliefs because fear of public scrutiny. However, isn’t it important that individuals stand up for what they believe in? If they really care about the issue at hand, shouldn’t these leaders attempt to change the public’s views instead of merely changing their own to match public views?

What do you think John Start Mill would believe? He argued that individuals should voice their own opinions because this would either give them a clearer perception of truth, or allow them to perceive what is the truth. However, due to fear of backlash, political leaders have often changed their true opinions or refused to acknowledge their viewpoints. Do his arguments apply to this issue of political leaders refusing to acknowledge their true views?

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One Comment on “Political Leaders and their Voices”

  1. andgoldberg Says:

    Mill would argue that these politicians should voice their own opinion no matter what situation they are in. The constant fear of backlash from the public hinders how successful many presidents and other political figures are. Many politicians establish a solidified set of beliefs and perspectives on public issues to society. The public then makes a decision to “support” a certain political figure. If the politician changes any of their views, they are susceptible to backlash from their supporters. This established fear of backlash is detrimental. Politicians need to have the ability to react and change their approach based on the current situation.

    Politicians should assess each issue presented to them and take the “right” approach that is not influenced by how much backlash the politician may receive. With a thoughtful/caring approach that is truly genuine, politicians can assess the right action to take on certain issues.

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