Running for Public Office - The Best Education Money Can't Buy

   Why do people seek public office?  It is difficult, expensive and disruptive.  Multimillionaires like New Jersey Senator Jon Corzine and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg made hundreds of millions of dollars in business, but then willingly spent tens of millions to get elected to jobs that pay little, require a lot of work, entail a lot of personal abuse and accomplish relatively little.  So, what's the attraction? Fame, certainly.  But there is more.

    And once in office, why do they do almost anything to stay there, even divorcing their wives.  The answer is that governing in a democratic system is the most difficult job there is.  Very complex, a real test of a person's competence and intelligence.  From the intense competition in politics, and the numbers of very wealthy individuals who are attracted to it, it would be safe to say that it is easier to make a hundred million dollars than it is to get elected president.

   But the one thing about campaigning for and holding public office that makes it really attractive is that the candidate and office holder gets an education that money can not buy.  The reason?  In almost all areas of human endeavor and contact, there is an adversarial relationship.  In commerce, a good deal involves either the buyer paying more or the seller selling for less.  There is an equitable bargain price, but one side tries to make the price higher and other tries to make the price lower.

   In almost all human relationships, even love, there is this element of opposition between the two sides.  Politics is the one area where, although there may be an adversarial relationship between the candidates seeking the same office, there is no adversarial relationship between the candidates and the voters.  Exactly the opposite is true.

   In politics, it is in the voters' best interest that the candidate know the real truth about what concerns the voter.  People rarely meet candidates, but when they do, they either ask for help solving a specific personal problem, or they voluntarily reveal to that candidate what it is that really concerns them at the moment.  This is invaluable information and gives people seeking public office an accurate view of reality unmatched by anyone, even pollsters, who are often lied to.

   Often, voters just tell the candidate the most important fact about themselves of their entire life.  One candidate was soliciting votes among local bus passengers.  He sat down beside an old man who looked a little down on his luck.  When the candidate started talking about his transportation platform and his plans for improving public bus and train service, the man sprang to life and revealed that he had been an engineer on the Pennsylvania Railroad.

   Once he had driven the train bringing President Roosevelt from Washington to New York.  He described in detail how, because of security concerns, the train was not allowed to stop to take on water.  So trenches were dug in the middle of different stretches of track and filled with water.  The engine had a scoop that was lowered into the trenches, so the engine could take on water without stopping.

   That was all the man said.  This is the kind of information that rains down on candidates in torrents.  People with zoning problems, criminal problems, they come and tell you the most intimate details of the things that really concern them.  The reason for this is that the voters hope, in case you win, that you will be able to do something about the things that concern them.  Therefore, it is in their interest for the candidate to have an accurate picture of reality. 

   Another reward of being a candidate is the ability to accomplish something.  Just raising the issue in the public forum in a way that gives the people an opportunity to pass judgment usually forces the government to respond.  In fact, you can accomplish almost anything by making it an issue in a campaign, even though you lose the race.  There is an old saying that you can accomplish anything, as long as you don't mind who gets the credit for it.  The reason is that accomplishing something and getting the credit for it are both full time jobs, and no one can do both.

   The Institute of Election Analysis highly recommends running for public office, even losing races.  Voters always have positive feelings toward all candidates because the more candidates the more choices the voters have.  And losing a race is no disgrace.  People's political consciousness is so low, most have no idea who won or who lost.  Who is your state representative?  State Senator?  Congressman?  If you're reading this website, you probably know.  But most people do not.  So if they do not even know who the winner is, do you think they have a low opinion of the loser?

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Contact: Joshua Leinsdorf