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Consider this statement:

In a democracy, the successful politician resembles the ordinary citizen.

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 the successful politician in a democracy does not resemble the ordinary citizen. Discuss what you think determines whether or not the successful politician resembles the ordinary citizen.

Sample Essay #1

A successful politician does resemble an ordinary citizen. The ordinary citizen voted the politician in office. Ordinary citizens do not want a politician in office who is different from them, like in moral, ethics and viewpoints. A politician would not be successful, if the politician does not have the support of the ordinary citizen.

A situation in which a successful politician does not resemble the ordinary citizen, is when a politician were to take a bribe, or go against his ethics and morals. An ordinary would not take a bribe, or go against what he stands for. Politician has to do good work for the ordinary citizen, instead of himself. A bribe would only benefit the politician and not for the ordinary citizen.

A good politician resembles the ordinary citizens, because his success lies in the hands of the ordinary citizens. If a politician does not do his job, or does something against the ordinary citizens, they will vote him out of office. Most ordinary citizens have good character, and a successful politician must have good character.


Explanation of score:

This writer demonstrates only a tenuous understanding of the rhetorical assignment. There is a kernel of an idea in the first paragraph, but the writer makes no attempt to develop or defend it. The second paragraph’s failure to connect its assertions to the prompt undercuts the essay’s clarity and focus; the “bribes” example is an unproductive tangent that leads the essay off course.

The final paragraph fails to identify a determining factor or offer an opinion regarding whether or not a politician should resemble an ordinary citizen. Language use is quite basic throughout, with many repetitions and missteps in mechanics. The low score is ensured by the essay’s wandering focus, failure to address all three tasks, and the writer’s inability to fully grasp the underlying concerns of the prompt.

Sample Essay #2

A democracy is a government in which all citizens take part in determining how they are

governed. A representative democracy is a government in which the citizens elect a

single person to represent their beliefs. A good politician could be defined as an electee that conforms with these citizen’s beliefs. When it is said that in a democracy, the successful politician resembles the ordinary citizen, it means the representative is a person who conforms to the majority. Ordinary citizens are the “average” citizens who collectively agree on a majority of issues, so when a politician resembles these people, there is a better representation of the citizens as a whole. This, in turn, creates a true democracy.

There is, however, instances in which a politician is successful without displaying the average characteristics of an ordinary citizen. For example, a politician may have knowledge about the economy that an ordinary citizen may not have because he/she needs to make decisions about the government’s budget. The more knowledge he has, the better decision he’ll be able to make, and the better politician he will be.

Personally, I think that a politician’s ability to speak to the people in a way they can understand is key to assessing his likeness to them. Another key factor is the consistency of his decisions (ie. voting) with the peoples opinions. Lastly, his credibility is key to identifying him as an ordinary citizen.


Explanation of score:

This essay manages to briefly address all three tasks, but depends on definitions in the first paragraph for much of its length. While it is sometimes helpful to explicitly define one’s terms in order to set the table for one’s argument, here it comes at the cost of adequately dealing with the substance of the prompt.

This reliance on definitions undercuts the essay’s unity and coherence, as the first paragraph does very little to set up the second. The second paragraph is moderately more successful than the first, as it provides an instance in which a politician must differentiate himself from the “ordinary citizen.” A more detailed discussion of politicians’ superior access to information, and the significance of this factor in making a politician successful, might have pushed this essay’s development toward adequacy.

The closing paragraph is the essay’s weakest. It does very little to resolve the issues brought up in the previous paragraphs. Instead, it makes disconnected and inadequately explained assertions that do little to further the writer’s argument or draw it successfully to a close. Language use is competent and clear, but overall, this essay is only somewhat successful in responding to the prompt.

Sample Essay #3

The fundamental doctrine of democracy is creating government that is representative of the people. If a politician lies within the fringe of society, he or she may be

incapable of making decisions for the whole of society, as one’s opinions are slanted due to a particular standpoint in society. Undoubtedly, a politicians need to be led by what the “ordinary person” needs when making laws. However, who the “ordinary person” is and what they want is less well defined.

In recent years, America has seen the rise of many “common man” politicians; Jimmy Carter, with his rural upbringing, and George Bush, with his colloquial speech, are just a few examples. In contradiction to these men, a few extraordinary politicians have given rise to great democracy and achieved the goals of the ordinary citizen. Ted Kennedy is certainly not of an ordinary American lineage, yet he has consistently voted for legislation that benefits those in lower tax brackets and even on welfare. He has voted against racial discrimination on all levels, as well as sexual, despite have the privilege of being a wealthy white man in a patriarchy. While his standpoint is not that of the majority and he would certainly not experience any discrimination nor financial woes, he has maintained a policy towards incorporating all types of American people with all types of ordinary problems that he has never experienced first hand.

This commitment to his constituents would indicate a great deal of understanding and empathy for the plight of the common person, despite being one of the wealthiest members of the Senate. Many sociologists see standpoint theory as having a greater importance for those belonging to the lower classes. This individual needs to understand those who hold power over him. However, in this case of the non-ordinary politician, to be successful he or she needs to understand those in the lower statuses because these are the very individuals who will be voting, thus holding power over the politician. It is really an amazing system of checks-and-balances, as long as those individuals are willing to participate in this process.

Ordinary citizens like to see politicians that resemble themselves, so they don’t feel disenfranchised. This often works well because the politician is well aware of the problems of the people. However, this seems to work better on a local level, where there are fewer types that one has to please. Also, temptations at higher levels of government would tend to be more attractive options to the ordinary citizen politician than to the politician who has already achieved greater status.

One can conclude that an ordinary or not-so-ordinary politician can be successful as long as one’s principles and focus on the needs of the people are not diminished. A politician needs to be able to separate self-preservation and the desires of the people. One must always keep that in perspective.


Explanation of score:

This writer begins by noting both the theoretical importance and the practical difficulties that surround the idea of serving the “ordinary citizen.” This broadening and contextualization of the prompt topic is a hallmark of many high-scoring essays. The second paragraph astutely calls attention the “everyman politician” phenomena as embodied by Jimmy Carter and George W. Bush, but doesn’t pursue the idea with the requisite depth and clarity expected of a 6. The transition to the extended examination of Ted Kennedy’s fight for the rights of “ordinary citizens” despite his privileged upbringing is abrupt, which undercuts the overall unity of the paper. Nonetheless, this writer provides a great deal of persuasive detail in support of the Kennedy example, developing and explaining its relevance to the idea of a politician “resembling” his or her constituency in third paragraph. The point about “standpoint theory,” on the other hand, is not given the explanation and analysis it needs.

Substantially developed, with enough depth and complexity to make the major ideas rhetorically effective, this essay is clearly above adequate. Language use, for the most part, is fluent and engaging. Had the essay been more skillfully constructed and consistent in the explanation and synthesis of its ideas, it might have received a score of 6. As it stands, it fits neatly into the 5 score point.

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