I ran for the position of councillor in the 2018 Municipal elections, now four years after as we approach another election, here are some of the things I learned.
Politics is about Optics
A person running for office must recognize that everything they do – or have ever done – is under scrutiny. Political opponents will pounce on any perceived weakness while surreptitiously hiding their own. Imagine having to live your life, while making sure that everything you do is viewed in a positive light, or is aligned with your political persona, or does not inadvertently offend some person or group. It can be exceedingly difficult.
For example, think of a person who might not believe that being truthful is always necessary. That person may know that many people value the truth and see it as part of a person’s integrity. Their political platform may speak about integrity and accountability, but that was only done for optics; because it connects with what most people feel. In such an example, is it any wonder how some politicians seem to do say one thing and do another? The Canadian political landscape is littered with many similar examples. These range from Black face by a “woke” politician to a concerning lack of transparency in procurement from a politician who touted transparency and accountability in office. Which brings us to our next point.
Integrity and Accountability are only words
Just because a person uses these words in their speeches and in their political platform, does not mean they believe in the meaning or principle of these words. What may be even worse than this is that we have become so disillusioned and cynical about politicians that we don’t even care anymore. For example, in the SNC Lavalin and WE Charity controversy, current Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, was found to have breached ethical rules.
Yet despite this very apparent and obvious failing, people still voted for him. What’s more is that on the campaign trail he still professed to believe in and uphold integrity and accountability in government. Yet again evidence for this is strewn about the Canadian political landscape in all three areas of government. Would it not be better to change our way of doing things and demand that if our politicians contravene these blatantly obvious ethical standards they are somehow punished and not rewarded with even more time in government? Sounds nice, but that leads us to the next point.
People hate change, but demand better
No matter how much they may scream and clamour for it - people hate change. No matter how they may demand it, when it does appear they inevitably recoil in horror. People hate change but demands improvement. They hate change but insist on transformation. The dichotomy is blinding.
Yet, the fact remains that if we are to in any way address the failings present in all our levels of government, we must have change. If we are to stop wasteful spending, halt astronomical tax hikes, address ineptitude in governance, ensure that our children have a future worth living in…then we must have change. But that brings us to the next point.
Being a politician is an impossible job
People demand that their politicians are sympathetic to their constituents’ needs. Politicians are expected to smart, always prepared, truthful, down to earth, friendly, open with a keen sense of integrity and upstanding moral principles. What’s more is that people demand that their politicians be able to receive and accept the low-brow, mudslinging, hateful rhetoric, that often crosses the line of bullying in any other circumstance but this, because politicians “must have a tough skin!” Having a “tough skin” is described as the following:
insensitivity: not readily offended or affected by criticism or insult; a quality of resistance or immunity against injury or attack; a lack of sensitivity toward others
Do you believe that a human being can be sympathetic, friendly and have a tough skin? Personally, I have only met a few of those types of people and I can tell you that the “tough skin” thing is only an act. They feel the barbs and insults thrown their way. But they put those things aside to serve. Those are the politicians I support. The ones that wear their heart on their sleeves and who, despite the hate that others spew toward them, their family, and their supporters, continue to fight. If you are saying to yourself that you don’t know any politician like that, you might be right. They are indeed in the minority.
Let’s be realistic, most people get into politics because they are attracted to the office by the power, they derive from it. They speak a good game but when it comes to their actions, they fall regretfully short. They show concern for the community only when the situation demands it. They connect with their constituents only when they need their votes. They are “available” only when it benefits them and their image. At the end of the day, I am not saying that we should not demand a higher standard from our politicians. Neither am I saying that they should get a free pass because it’s a tough job. I am saying that we need to be aware of these competing factors.