The Problem With Most Politicians

What if politicians got fired for lying? Would we have any left? I think this is the problem with most politicians. They aren’t held to account, even at election time.

I think it’s reasonable and even possible for us to eject a representative if they lie to get elected. It just involves creating consequences.

If all of us voted like lying was a disqualifying factor in an election, we might have more useful election campaigns and indeed, more useful political representatives.

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In a few months we will be having a civic election in our city and will be electing a new mayor. Our mayor has announced that he will be leaving civic politics, perhaps in search of a real job, and as of this morning approximately 24 people have declared themselves as candidates for his position.

We also find ourselves in the midst of a federal election, so the likelihood of a job seeking politician knocking on your door, or sending you an email full of big promises is basically 100% in the coming weeks.

Talk is Cheap

The marvellous thing about democracy is that anyone -regardless of education, experience, skill, ability, or competence- can run for elected office.

The tragedy of democracy is that anyone -regardless of education, experience, skill, ability, or competence- can run for elected office.

In politics, the successful applicant is often hired because he or she presents well, not because they are the best qualified.

The only way this nets out with quality representatives in office is if we measure their performance by what they are supposed to do, by what they said they’d do. And then we vote based on that measurement the next time.

We Get What We Focus On

I use the expression “you get what you focus on” to my coaching clients, but it applies equally well to politics. If we place importance on looking for “gotcha” moments and disparaging candidates who lack pizazz in their presenting ability, then it stands to reason we get politicians who place more importance on style than on substance.

We tend to choose the person who does the best job selling themselves, instead of the person who presents the best plan for the future. That puts smooth talkers ahead of competent leaders who don’t happen to have a slick sales pitch. Therefore, we miss out on a lot of quality experience and ability.

It has long been said that in a democracy you always get the government you deserve, which calls to mind another useful cliché, “be careful what you ask for.”

If You Don’t Vote (Judiciously) You Can’t Complain

Many people have pointed out that if you choose not to vote in an election, you forfeit your right to criticize the government, which helped me understand why I vote in every election.

I always thought that my decision to vote was based on my pride in being a Canadian citizen and that I was exercising my civic duty by doing so.

I re-evaluated my voting history, and determined that the real reason I vote is because like so many of my fellow citizens, I love nothing better than complaining about the government.

The Real Standard for Politicians

The vote/complaint adage should be amended to “If you don’t hold the people you vote for accountable, by choosing someone else if they don’t do a good job, you don’t deserve to complain.”

We see time and again, our representatives have lied to us, but we persist in voting for them and their party (for various reasons) and so, this sends the message that lying is okay and normal part of politics.

Here’s what should happen instead.

Imagine if we asked candidates, “If you fail to deliver on your campaign promises, do you commit to resigning your position, and never running for elected office again?”

My guess is that if I have any opportunity to ask this question, and choose to disqualify all those who do not say “yes,” then these will be the first elections in which I don’t vote.

I don’t believe a single candidate has the guts to say “yes, I will.”

Perhaps you can use the same criteria in selecting the person you vote for.

Till we read again.

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