Monday, February 27, 2006

Avoiding Aspiring Politicians - César

I have often heard young people say that they “want to go into politics.” In fact, on more occasions than I can remember people have asked me whether I “want to go into politics.”

I’m fascinated by politics – electoral, legislative, personal, and all other kinds of politics. I know that when people talk about “going into politics” they refer only to electoral and legislative politics. Nonetheless, I prefer the definition of politics as a “process by which collective decisions are made within groups.”

Politics happens every day, everywhere, by all kinds of people. Unfortunately, the type of politics practiced by people who “want to go into politics” is the kind practiced in majestic buildings ornately furnished and filled with the trappings of power. Electoral and legislative politics are isolating, removing politicians from the stirrings of the world outside their privileged positions.

So why do some people “want to go into politics”? Who grows up wanting to go into politics?

Electoral and legislative politics should not be something one plans to enter; it shouldn’t be something that one sets down in her mental timeline as a marker of success to be reached by a certain age; it shouldn’t be something for which a person creates a multi-step plan to personally reach.

In Western nations, the role of the politician is not simply burdened with a great responsibility to serve one’s constituents. In the USA, as in other countries, the politician is handed a great deal of power, influence, and legitimacy. The enormity of the attributes with which we, as a nation, entrust our politicians requires that our politicians be capable of wisely wielding such privilege. Needless to say, even a cursory look at the ranks of our city councils, state houses, and Congress throughout the decades indicates that our politicians are often less than capable of wisely wielding their privilege.

I am immediately skeptical of anyone who admits to a desire to enter politics. Politics should only be entered to push a particular goal or set of goals. For example, Ron Dellums, the former Congressperson, was essentially drafted into running for city council by people with whom he was engaged in civil rights work because they wanted to move their goals from the streets onto the local decision making body. They thought that legislative politics was simply the best way to do that. Had there been a better option, they would have taken that path.

As a result, I can’t support someone seeking elected office who admits to having aspired to hold elected office for years prior to jumping into a race. A rush to enter elected office suggests a desire to embrace power rather than a desire to engage in the politics of democratic governance.


Post a Comment

<< Home