I am a passionate, dedicated person who has always been interested in making an impact on the world. For this reason, as well as probably many others, I have been told often that I should run for political office. I would be lying if I said that I had never thought about it.
In contemplating it, I realize that it would not be a good fit for me. The biggest factor in that decision is that I would not like to be the kind of politician that I think is the right kind of politician. Let me tell you about the first time I realized this to illustrate it.
I was working at an event that was not as busy as we had all hoped it would be when I found myself listening to another vendor. For simplicity, I will call her Rachel. Since I was working, I found myself being more polite than if I were at a social gathering. Rachel had spent the better part of three hours talking to the other vendors more than talking to the attendees – it was a slow market. Her voice carried well, and I could tell she had some strong opinions – Rachel was a passionate individual. She spent much more time sharing her passion with the other people than she spent listening to them or reading their reactions. I was intrigued, and had spent a lot of time watching her interactions with the other people there.
At some point, this vendor had set up her metaphorical soap box between my table and the table of another young woman. I will call the young woman Emily. Emily was younger than I, and we had been chatting for some time, so I knew that she was working for her employer at the time, and was new to being at markets. Emily was very polite and kind, and I enjoyed her as a market neighbour. I noticed Emily being polite in her responses to Rachel. Since I was working, I focused more on the attendees of the market, and had lost the interest of Rachel. (Truth bomb: I was being “silent polite” in hopes to be left alone.)
In the course of Rachel talking to Emily, the topic came around politics. As it turns out, Rachel had run for office in the last election. Rachel was very interested in politics, and had been working for the party she was running under for what seemed like a few years. She told this story about how she had created this bill that another party wanted to use, and it got to be too much for me. Rachel was upset because the other party was not going to credit her party with the bill. I, too, am a passionate person, and I couldn’t listen to this idea of politics for any longer. So, in true Socratic style, I started to ask her questions.
“Is it important to you that this bill get passed? Or more important that you get recognized for it?”
“Well, it’s not giving us any credit for it.”
“So, you need to have credit for something in order for it to be the right thing for the country?”
“Well, it’s the principle of it…” she trailed into some more of a rant about copyrights to the bill or some sort of thing. My apologies as I wasn’t doing my best at listening by this point, having tried to politely listen to this proselytizer for so long.
“Is it what your constituents would want, though? I’ve watched you for the better part of this market, go around to all of these people – these potential voters – and tell them your opinion. But what do the people actually want.”
“Well, I asked them during the last election. I knocked on so many doors…”
Aha! There’s the rub. “But that’s not the only time that a politician is supposed to be listening and representing what the people want.”
It was in this moment that I truly understood that myself. People no longer trust politicians and this might be part of the reason why. We elect the politicians to represent us and what we want for our country, province, and our community. To make this decision, we listen to their platforms prior to an election. At that time, we get to know them – as if we were interviewing them for the position that we get to grant them. But what happens after the election? If they have (or have not, in this case) been chosen as our representative, how do we know that they are still representing our best interests?
Many people don’t realize it or perhaps don’t think about it very often, but elected officials are always (supposed to be) working for us. If they aren’t, we need to hold them accountable – and not just during an election. Every politician is required to hold constituency hours, and are there to have discussions with the people they are representing. Just like you would tell an employee or be told as an employee, this is a great opportunity to not only tell the elected official that they’re doing a good job but to also have your voice heard. Frankly, I want the politicians I elect to be better at this part of the job than at the election part.
That doesn’t seem to be the case, though. Somewhere along the way, we got caught up in the glamour of the election more than the day-to-day duties of our elected officials. We yell at politicians for not holding up their promise only when they are running for re-election rather than talking to them in the moment. An election might be years apart, whereas employee reviews are recommended every 3 months.
So, yes, I might make a great elected official…one day. I’m passionate, and I care about my community, my country, and most of all the world. Does my community share that same passion with me, though? Would I be the best representative for them? Personally, I think my passions are too important for me to be in full service to the issues that are important to the people who would elect me. However, if I wrote a bill that was going to be passed through, I would be rejoicing in having made such a mark on the law. It is not the glory that attracts me to politics so much as it is the impact one can have on our society.