Keep Whatever Integrity You Have Left, Don't Run for Office
It was a beautiful mid morning in March and I was hurrying to catch up to my family and friends who were already enjoying the annual Oceanview St. Patrick's Day Parade.
I was running behind, and doing my best not to make eye contact with anyone in order to avoid the chance of seeing someone and delaying myself further with a useless "Hey! How's it going?" conversation with a random someone I know, but only see once every 3 years when I'm late for something else (that happens to me more often than it should).
As I'm hustling along, a man in a suit stops me with an abrupt, "Excuse me, can I have a minute of your time?"
I notice another man standing next to him with a clipboard in hand and a political campaign button on his shirt.
He continues, "I need your signature on this petition so I can get on the ballot to be your representative in congress"...
Now, normally I would simply tell him I'm in a hurry and can't stop, but I could tell by his aggressiveness in stopping me, this guy wasn't letting me off that easy....so I didn't let him off that easy either.
"Why do you want to run for office?" I asked.
"I'm not happy with the direction our country is heading in..." he says.
And then my cynicism kicked in.
"Well what are the chances you'll win? Do you have a lot of money? You'll need a lot of money. And if you don't have a lot of money, you'll need support from people with a lot of money. Now let's say you have that....and let's further agree that you're a good man with good and noble intentions. Here's what happens next. Let's say you win. You will then have two options in our government. First, you'll find yourself as a freshman congressman with little to no influence. In order to gain influence you'll make friends. Maybe you'll have to compromise your principles a little to make those friends...and you will. You'll find that in order to make a difference, you'll need more than one term and immediately begin making decisions that ensure you'll have the funds to win the next election. And those people you know with a lot of money...well they don't just give it away for free.. You'll owe them, but not in cash. You'll owe them in political favor.....At least that's how most of them do it. You'll pack away your great ideas on 'fixing the country', and focus on getting along with the more senior members of congress who can help you and vilifying people who don't believe agree with everything you agree with...and you'll be caught in the game...you won't be governing, you be politicking. You'll be owned...So in that scenario, I'm not interested in signing your petition.....
Now there's a possibility that you'll stick to your convictions and you won't bend. You're maybe a strong person, and you really mean what you say about doing 'the common good...the will of the people'. In that scenario, you will definitely fail. You see people like that don't last in our government. Those that somehow do are often marginalized as kooks. The rest get their one term in office and move on.....
So these are your options... Bend and sell out like the rest of them, or be marginalized as some crazy person. And you want to do this!?! Give me that clipboard...."
He looked at me with his mouth open and nothing coming out.
I went on about my day and he went on about his. I caught up with my family and enjoyed the parade.
I don't know what he did. Smart people simply don't run for office. I do know that he didn't win however...and that's probably a good thing for him.