Politicians open themselves up for confrontation from the public - sometimes justified, other times not - and the same can be said for first-time political candidates. Everyone who’s serious about running for public office knows this. But sometimes the sting of rejection can sneak up on you when you’re not expecting it.
Is it worse to be judged by a stranger for doing something that they don’t approve of? Or to be judged for not doing something that they believe you ought to have done? This is the question I find myself asking, after an attempt at reaching out online to my fellow community members to inform them of my candidacy backfired. I was accused of spamming, of ignoring questions posed in the comments, and of being a “far-left schmuck”. I was able to take all of these things in stride; in fact, my wife and I had quite a laugh at “far-left schmuck”, and even joked about putting it on campaign buttons for my supporters to wear. And if members of “the Squad” in Congress can deal with countless death threats and bigoted remarks, then this white male can certainly handle a few Facebook comments!
But then, something that one of these detractors said hit me squarely in the chest: They told me (in so many words) they would never vote for a candidate who has no prior leadership experience.
At the time of writing this, I’m still not 100% sure why this particular statement struck me the way it did; but now that I’ve had time to process it, I think that there are many subtle implications involved in this person’s words.
First, there is this notion of “prior leadership experience”. Now, I’m making an assumption that this person believes leadership is just another thing to put on one’s résumé - a job title whose value can be unilaterally measured in time and/or income level. This might make sense in a business, where time can either be profit gained or profit lost depending on the circumstances; but civil servitude as an elected official is not meant to be a “job”. Constituents are not meant to be treated as customers. Elected office is not supposed to be some promotion to a position of more authority and prestige than you had beforehand. It is intended to be an opportunity for ordinary members of a democratic society to help shape an ever-evolving community, whether locally or globally, into a rational and fulfilling experience of interconnected living in the world they partake in. Why should we hesitate to allow our everyday working neighbors this opportunity, yet gladly vest these duties in people who are simply looking for one more bullet point in their résumé of personal accomplishment? How does the thickness – or thinness - of my portfolio objectively determine my fitness to serve the public?
Second, many individuals in positions of authority often arrive there not through merit or a penchant for social altruism, but rather through bribery and influential connections. I am not accusing my opponent in this race of such things, far from it; but it is common knowledge that wealth and social circles can bring unwieldy power to people who don’t deserve it. And if you can buy your way into a position of leadership, then it goes without saying that you also buy the “experience” and prestige that comes with it. Leadership and power do not always go hand in hand.
Lastly - and this may be a stretch for some folks reading this - it seems as though one cannot be passionate about a prevailing issue unless one has experienced it for oneself. I can certainly agree with this idea in the negative sense (for example, a room full of male legislators making laws about how much bodily autonomy a woman should be allowed); but in other cases, this notion can become an unnecessary hurdle. I believe “trans panic” shouldn’t be an allowable defense in a murder trial, yet I myself am not a trans individual. I believe government subsidies should be given to small local businesses instead of gigantic corporations, yet I myself am not a business owner. I fully support the Second Amendment, yet I myself have never owned any firearms.
All of this is to say that, it’s common to critique our fellow people for what they haven’t yet accomplished, but rarely helpful. If we unnecessarily “gatekeep” individuals who have the desire to participate in their government, then we can never have a government truly representative of all its people.
To quote a familiar line from my wife’s favorite musical: “There’s a million things I haven’t done, but just you wait...”.
Posted on 10 Aug 2020, 18:41 - Category: General