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Topic 2

Consider this statement:

Politicians too often base their decisions on what will please the voters, not on what is best for the country.

Write a unified essay in which you perform the following tasks. Explain what you think the above statement means. Describe a specific situation in which a politician might make an unpopular decision for the good of the country. Discuss the principles you think should determine whether political decisions should he made to please the voters or to serve the nation.

Essay IV Essay V Essay VI


Essay IV (Score = 5)

In a representative democracy, representatives are selected by the voters to convey their ideas and values in the government. These representatives are voted for by citizens according to their degree to which they will uphold these ideas and values. Citizens would obviously not vote someone into office who believes in the opposite of the citizens on several issue. The representatives will be re-elected in the same manner; the degree to which the citizens ideas and values were upheld. It is not suprising that politicians will base their decisions on what will please the voters and not on what is best for the country. The politicians must maintain the popularity of the voters and the best method to achieve that is to please them with the actions made in governmental circles.

The politicians however are not merely carbon copies of the citizen's consensus opinions. The politicians will have opinions of their own and occasionally this may conflict with those of the voters. At this tune the politicians may make an unpopular decision for what they feel is for the good of the country. One example is often seen with the petition of Nazi groups to march. While an exceptionally high majority of citizens would never want to see this march occur, many politicians would have no choice but to let the march proceede for a greater good, in this instance it is the right to free speech guaranteed by the 1st Amendment to the constitution. From this ideal, much of this country was founded and it would be hypocritical to deny it to another group regardless of how unpopular this group was to the voters.

While this is an extreme case of politicians displeasing the voters for the good of the country, there exists a great range of "grey" area where politicians and voters do not meet eye to eye. So what should be considered when making a decision to please the voters or serve the nation? Fortunately, for the most part, the voters will also have the best interest of the nation at heart but trouble can still arise. One major problem is the building of new prisons or landfills. For most voters, there is no question that they are needed, but none of the voters wants to see the prison or landfill wind up in their backyards. To deal with such problems and still remain in good standing with the voters, the politicians must learn to make consessions. For instance, in the same district where a new prison is built, a new High School and Industrial Park is set up to better education and increase jobs and the local economy.

A politicians must weigh the potential degrees of disfavor that they may incur when determining whether to serve the nation at the risk of the voters. Politicians are unable to please all of the voters all of the time, but by ensuring that unfavorable decisions are accompanied by many favorable ones, the politicians can balance on the tretcherous tightrope between serving their country and serving their voters.

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Score Explanation for Essay IV (Score = 5)

This paper clearly addresses the three elements of the rhetorical assignment, examining the issue of political decision making in a democracy as it pertains to voter input and perceptions about politically sensitive issues. The presentation is coherent, focused, well developed and unified thematically as the writer presents specific examples to illustrate the complexity of the issue. The explanation and commentary on the examples, especially the discussion of the prison/landfill dilemma in the next-to-last paragraph, engage the reader and provides ample evidence to support the writer's position.

There are weaknesses in the presentation of the paper, especially minor lapses in diction and mechanics, but there is good syntactic variety and little repetition or redundancy. Sentences are well formed and purposeful. Effective word choice and imagery are used (politicians not being "carbon copies" of citizens' views, politicians keeping their footing on the treacherous tightrope"). Overall, there is a strong command of language.

The first two paragraphs address one of the inherent problems in representative democracy:

what should politicians do when their opinions, conscience, and sense of what is lawful happen to differ from the views of the people who elect and reelect the politicians to promote their viewpoints? The writer explains the elements of representative democracy in the first paragraph. In the second paragraph, the writer illustrates the dilemma by offering an example: Nazi groups desiring to demonstrate in a community where the vast majority of citizens oppose Nazi marches.

The writer admits, in the next paragraph, that the example is an extreme one. This declaration works as a transitional device, allowing the writer to proceed to a more common and ambiguous example. By noting that the construction of landfills is favored by voters but that they seldom want them in their own communities, the writer explores the predicament facing elected officials. The writer says politicians "must weigh the potential degrees of disfavor" and acknowledges that politicians may not be able "to please all the voters all of the time." Thus, compromise is required, and the writer offers a creative solution to the hypothetical situation: build a prison and "a new High School and Industrial Park."

The strength of the paper is demonstrated by the complex level at which the issues are discussed. Ideas are developed by comparing examples and reflecting on the situations and solutions presented. The lapses in language control are minor, especially considering the time constraints of the test. The writer's success in expressing ideas and exploring issues is apparent in the attention to and execution of the rhetorical assignment.

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Essay V (Score = 3)

The security of a politician's career generally depends on their popularity. Since most politicians make their living as such, their standard of living depends on their success as a politician. Thus, the explanation for a politician who bases his/her decisions on what will please the voters is clear: by doing so, he/she assumes that the well-being of the nation is not immediately at risk, and chooses to insure his/her own well-being.

However, in some instances, a politician may decide to act for the good of the country by making an unpopular decision. One example of such a decision was President Lincoln's refusal to allow the seccession of the southern states to go unchallenged. In starting the Civil War, Lincoln made himself out to be a tyrant in the eyes of the entire South, effectively splitting the Nation in two. However, Lincoln's decision was based in his belief that a Nation divided against itself cannot stand. Consequently, he chose to accept the unpopularizing effects of his decision in light of its impact on the future security of the Nation.

When making a decision, a politician should weigh the consequences of the decision for his/her own immediate welfare and the country's welfare. The final decision should give adequate priority to the nation's welfare. If the politician does not deem the nation's long-term security to be at substantial risk, he/she may act to please the voters. By doing so, the politician insures his/her own well-being until a time when a more pressing circumstance might arise. In such a pressing circumstance, or when the nation's welfare is at immediate risk, he/she should act for the nation's well-being. For such a decision could also, to some extent, preserve the well-being of the politician, and, at least, would be the politician's best effort to preserve the country.

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Score Explanation for Essay V (Score = 3)

This paper presents a central idea (politicians please the voters to assure incumbency), notes an historical exception (President Lincoln's decisions regarding the secession of southern states), and attempts a discussion of the criteria involved in decision making when both the politician's own future and the welfare of the nation will be affected. In doing these things, the writer completes the rhetorical assignment. The paper, however, is not adequately developed and suffers, at times, from imprecise expression of ideas.

The first paragraph notes that a politician's job and, thus, "well-being" depend on popularity with the voters. The writer explains that this is the reason politicians make decisions to "please the voters." The writer then notes that "by doing so, he/she assumes that the well-being of the nation is not immediately at risk," but the connection between the politicians s assumption about the nation and the decision-making process is not clearly explained or elaborated. A specific example here might help explain the writer's point. Also, the phrase "by doing so" is somewhat confusing since it suggests, implicitly, that the politician's decision to please the voters is, in fact, part of the assumption that the nation is not at risk. It is difficult for the reader to know precisely what the writer is trying to say.

The first sentence of the next paragraph is, essentially, a paraphrase of the second task in the rhetorical assignment, though it does serve as a transitional device. The writer next describes a specific situation in which a politician (Lincoln) makes an unpopular decision for the good of the country. Once again, however, the phrasing and word choice is awkward ("Lincoln made himself out to be a tyrant," "Lincoln's decision was based in his belief," "the unpopularizing effects"). These flaws diminish the clarity of the paragraph and impede the smooth flow of ideas.

In the final paragraph, the writer clearly asserts that the guiding principle for politicians in decision making should be the "long-term security" of the nation. This assertion is consistent with the example given in the previous paragraph. Furthermore, the writer notes that politicians may "act to please the voters" except when "a more pressing circumstance" might exist. Unfortunately, the writer does not define or explain what this circumstance might be, except to indicate that it might be a circumstance that adversely affects "the nation's welfare." A clearer, more specific indication of what this risk to the nation's welfare might be would help the writer develop and explain the idea.

There are few mechanical errors in this paper, and the writer has a specific and concrete thesis. The major weaknesses in the presentation of the argument are the lack of development and occasional lapses in clarity. More sustained elaboration and effective word choice would strengthen the paper.

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Essay VI (Score = 1)

Politicians too often base their decisions on what will please the voters, not on what is best for the country.

In the voting process, politicians sometimes try to appeal to the public (voters) by proposing ideals that sound too good to be true. What is good for voters may not always be the best for the country as a whole.

On the other hand, what is best for a country may not be favorable for the majority of voters. For instance, the Gulf War was not everybody's choice but yet American soldiers came back as heroes. President Clinton made that decision to serve the country.

In my opinion, what determines whether political decisions should be made to please the voters or to serve the nation is the reevaluation of that decision and the analysis of its impact on the voters, then on the country.

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Score Explanation for Essay VI (Score = 1)

This paper, though clearly written in terms of mechanics and sentence structure, expresses ideas without connecting or developing them. This writer appears to understand the rhetorical assignment and uses transitions to move from sentence to sentence ("On the other hand," "For instance," and "In my opinion"), but there is little evidence of connections between ideas. The amount of information presented is minimal.

The essay begins with an assertion (politicians propose "ideals that sound too good to be true"), but the second sentence adds little new information. The reader may also be somewhat confused by the use of the word "ideals" since the writer seems to mean "ideas." Whether the intention is to use "ideals" or "ideas," additional clarification is needed.

In the second paragraph, the writer attempts to describe a specific situation in which an unpopular decision (the Gulf War) was made for the good of the country. The writer notes, however, that soldiers came back as heroes, implying that voters approved of the action. Again, additional information is needed to address and define the issue.

The concluding paragraph consists of a single sentence composed of a long phrase from the rhetorical assignment ("whether political decisions should be made to please the voters or to serve the nation") and a general comment that decisions should be reevaluated in terms of their impact on the voters. This general statement is the only criterion offered. There is no discussion of the principles involved in political decision making.

The paper could be improved by a clearer presentation of the central idea, a more thorough and logical development of the ideas that support the thesis, and greater attention to the connection of ideas within the paragraphs.

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