Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Running for Public Office

I recently had a beer with a friend who's pondering a run for federal office. A lifelong moderate Democrat, he has recently become a republican, because, he told me, "the Democrats are too liberal on social issues." We have the sort of friendship that prevented me from smacking him upside the head, or voicing my suspicion that his conversion has much more to do with the demographics of his district than a profound shift in social philosophy (I could be wrong on this, but I'm pretty confident I'm not).

This conversation has been eating away at the back of my mind since Monday afternoon. I want to write about ambition, and rationalization, and moral clarity. But I can't, really.

From what I've seen, almost all politicians at all levels and of all party affiliations start their careers with a blend of idealism and ego. They want to make a difference, and they're convinced they will make a better difference than anyone else. In their hearts, they tend to believe they are destined for some kind of greatness and probably have had that feeling since they were in kindergarten. In his or her own mind, the person running for dog-catcher views the contest as essentially the same as a presidential campaign.

But the deal-making starts early. The toughest deal-making is internal - trying to reconcile who you are with who you need to be.

My friend is a good man, and, if he runs, he will have my support. And you may receive an invitation from me to a fundraiser for a republican. And I'll be making my own steps in the elaborate dance of political rationalization.

If that makes you a little queasy, welcome to the club.

3 Comments:

Blogger antimedia said...

That's why I support term limits. Kick them out before the idealism wears off.

1/25/2006 11:28 PM  
Blogger Dan said...

That's why I don't. Their idealism starts wearing out long before they're in office. And I'd rather have someone experienced and dependable than some idealistic, uninformed flavor of the week.

1/26/2006 6:19 PM  
Anonymous Lee said...

Ideally (so to speak) term limits would spur political parties to train successive generations of leadership to cycle through offices. What seems to happen instead is that inexperienced politicians act as proxies for think tanks and lobbyists.

1/28/2006 12:49 PM  

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