Ah! Politicians! Another election cycle has come and gone. How’d this latest slate of candidates strike you?
Who among us has not wanted to wring their neck or spit in their eye? But, hey, let’s be kind: it’s not an easy life they lead. Kissing babies, shaking hands, pretending to care. How’d you like to do that 24/7? It’s exhausting.
Politics is not a sprint but a marathon. The successful politician has one quality above all others, a characteristic that is universal among the elected, and it is endurance. Politics is a long slog that demands a resolute commitment and an undaunted spirit.
The truth is, politics is misunderstood. It is the science of people, of how to appeal to people, how to say what they want to hear, to push their buttons, to rally them to your side. It is not easy, it is not incidental, it is not without merit. It is consequential. It matters. But it’s not about statesmanship. It’s about a job.
To the politician, what matters is being elected. Then, almost immediately, before he or she can even enjoy the taste of victory, what matters is being elected again! That is the essential thing to understand about politics.
If you want to influence the outcome of some big deal political movement; if you want to shape public policy and bring about substantive change, then realize this: it is this simple.
What a politician decides to do is based on one basic question: if I do this, will more people vote for me than will vote against me? That is the decision point on which the fulcrum is balanced.
What he stands for, what she wants to accomplish, what the legacy will look like when all is said and done, comes down to that very basic decision: how does it play? We can wish for principal, we can hope for commitment, we can fantasize about what is momentous and consequential. But the objective is being elected and reelected. That’s all.
So if you want to mount a political movement, if you have a burning desire to make a difference, to enact some policy decision that will shape the course of society, you might want to figure out how to make it a matter of electability. Pure and simple. It’s how it gets done.