Google “politician” and be surprised, amused, dismayed and eventually saddened by what is found there. The clearest – and fairest – definition of the term is provided by ever-stalwart Merriam-Webster: “a person experienced in the art or science of government; especially: one actively engaged in conducting the business of a government.”
What draws anyone into that “business” has to be a very specific and, hopefully, special motivation. Most would like to think every politician seeks a better world for everyone, creating and enacting laws that clearly favor justice and that enhance the responsibilities of freedom. Most would like to think politicians know their professional voice is that of their people, that self-interest alone does not belong under the dome of government; that federal, state and local office-holders realize that the power they exercise is not just theirs, that true power is shared power.
Politicians are essential to any democracy’s well-being, especially those who believe in government “of the people, by the people and for the people.” Ideally, effective politicians have a peripheral and clear-sighted vision of a better way of governing, while honoring the traditional values of our heritage and our country’s Constitution. Unfortunately, as in any business, there are those vulnerable to the seductions of self-aggrandizement and power. It is those individuals who diminish the luster of the dedicated professionals who wish a better life and world for their constituents and country.
It is difficult to understand why even the most fervent idealist would choose to experience the pressures of public service these days. Still, it is important to appreciate those who do so. It has been said in a variety of ways that, “there’s no such thing as bad publicity.” Do not try to sell that to a politician. Working under the microscope of the public eye, with the media stalking constantly, every politician lives at risk even as they know that in the political profession, accountability is as important as character.
Fact of the matter is, they have a job many would not want, on any level. Not that their work is thankless or without benefits. A career in politics demands a Teflon ego and a resilience in dealing with criticism, differing opinions and (go to Google) ridicule. They manage to get elected, not merely because of their ideals but especially because they know the art and science of their profession.
It is a time-demanding intrusive job that “somebody has to do.” Those who do it well deserve our support, of course, but they also need to experience our appreciation.