Of course, not every public figure engages in these practices. In fact, I like to think that most do not. But it doesn’t take many of those who do to spoil the process, the outcome and the consequences for everyone.
I have always been fascinated by politics, even more so by politicians. This fascination does not stem from a desire to someday seek public office myself; rather, it stems from my black-and-white, right-and-wrong view of the world. I admire those who seek to truly serve the public, and I am constantly amazed and disappointed by those who seek to manipulate the public for their own personal gain.
James Freeman Clarke hit the nail on the head when he said, “A politician thinks of the next election. A statesman, of the next generation.” Smart man, since it’s usually the next generation who picks up the tab for the previous generation’s choices. And let me say it again: I have the utmost respect for those who serve keeping their fellow humans at the forefront of their motivations (whether they be neighbors, city or county residents, state residents or U.S. residents).
The benefit of most of my years of experience is limited to local politics. I am not a political reporter, but I do enjoy the privilege of covering city council meetings for several Gwinnett cities. Over the 7+ years I have observed local politics, I have seen some remarkable things from candidates and voters alike.
I have seen flowers planted in a toilet in order to make a political statement. There are too many jokes and punch lines there to explore. I have heard of campaign signs being stolen, anonymous letters with false accusations sent to voters, leading conversations being recorded, dubbed and shared, and flat-out lies being presented as the truth. In other words, by my black-and-white way of thinking, I have seen some people stop at nothing for the sole purpose of obtaining a position of power (and if you think political offices at the local level don’t carry a measure of power and influence, think again).
If political figures would just stick to the issues, campaigns and elections would look more like what our forefathers had in mind. I always have to ask the question, “If underhanded practices are necessary for a candidate to win, why? If attacking an opponent on a personal level rather than on their stance on the issues, why?” And by my black-and-white way of thinking, the answer is simple. Diversion. Smoke and mirrors. Sleight of hand. Cool if you’re David Copperfield; not so cool if you’re going to be making decisions about my money, property rights and community.
I urge each of you to become involved in politics at the local level. Educate yourself by attending local council meetings. Matters ranging from tax rates to what you can do with your own home and yard are decided there. You’ll be amazed at what you learn about your community, and further amazed to learn that you can influence governmental policy that affects you and your family. You will also meet some extraordinary people.
I also urge you to vote in the upcoming local elections. Meet the candidates. Talk to them about what matters to you and your neighbors. If the candidate is an incumbent, look at his or her voting record. Find out about previous campaign promises and whether they were fulfilled, or at least fought for.
Think about it. If you don’t vote, do you have the right to complain about actions taken by your elected officials?