Thursday, July 6, 2017

Career Politicians

If you type "career politicians" into Google, 390,000 results appear. On the first page, I found links to stories, webpages, and articles such as "Charlie Daniels: Our System was not Designed for Career Politicians," "Career Politicians on the Rise: How to Stem the Tide," and "Senator: Term Limits would Make Career Politicians Obsolete."

Apparently, you don't want to be called a career politician. Career politician brings to mind images of corrupt, political fat cats who exploit the system, contribute nothing to society, and leach off the rest of us; they are the elected officials more concerned with living large and keeping their jobs than helping people or bettering the country.

I don't like the term "career politician." I think it is a lazy, cynical catch-all term that serves as a knee-jerk substitute for real arguments about the accomplishments and failures of our elected leaders. It's much easier to denounce someone as a "career politician" than it is to examine at their record. Plus, some of the loudest voices condemning "career politicians" are people who also could be considered career politicians or at the very least are deeply embedded in politics.

Are there lazy, do-nothing politicians who leach off their positions, only serve themselves, and spend more time campaigning and raising money than they do fulfilling their jobs? Absolutely, but we're not getting anywhere labeling everyone as such.

I don't like the term "career politician" because it equates good politicians - those who are dedicated, serve with integrity, and push for policy that helps people - with bad politicians - the lazy, insulated fat cats who treat their positions not as a calling to serve others but to enrich themselves without giving back.

If you don't like a politician because of their political beliefs, fine. If you don't like them for their voting record, fine. If you don't like them for the statements they've made, fine. But please, don't dislike them because they're "career politicians."

Politics is the art of the compromise and negotiation; writing legislation and understanding how the law works; balancing competing interests, groups, and goals; and knowing how to work with and communicate with people, whether they are colleagues in your caucus, your opponents across the aisle, representatives of various organizations and nations, or most importantly, your constituents.

It's a job that requires many skills and traits: intelligence, diligence, dedication, hard work, communication, leadership, and vision. If someone will all this decides to dedicate their life to public service as an elected official, by all means, we should encourage them to run for office.

When good people and talented individuals avoid office, who do you think is left to take the reigns and make the decisions that impact us all?

Frankly, everyone in America, all of us, should think of ourselves as "career politicians." The United States is a democracy, and for it to work, we need to participate. Acting as if politics is somehow beneath us accomplishes nothing. I'm not saying everyone should seek office, but stay involved and be informed.

Read newspapers, lots of them, including the ones whose editorial pages you disagree with. Stay up-to-date on the issues impacting your community and the nation. When you see or hear news that sounds too good or too bad to be true, research it; find out whether it is. Attend your city council meetings. Write or phone you representatives and senators about the issues that concern you. Organize or participate in a march or assembly for a cause you believe in.

And vote. Vote. Vote. Vote. Vote. But please do so in an informed manner. Know the issues and candidates. Understand not just your position, but the other side. At least consider why someone might want to vote against you.

Yes, politics is frustrating. Yes, it can be disappointing. Yes, it's hard. That's the price if we want our voice to count. It's better than the alternative, and for it to work, we must subject politicians, or anyone seeking power, to the strictest of scrutiny and hold them accountable for everything they do and say.

Those who don't want to put up with that, who feel their position is above that level of criticism and transparency, the ones seeking individual reward, those career politicians can get lost.

But those who put up with it, the ones who meet the ethical and moral standards we demand, the ones who value service over reward and the people over themselves, we should want them as career politicians.

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