By Markus Batchelor (@MarkusBatchelor)
We can all come to the safe conclusion that the day of the statesman is coming to a rapid end in politics around the country. From Capitol Hill, the Wilson Building and community centers around the city, politics is becoming a back-and-forth argument not necessarily over the pressing issues of the day, but as a product of personal rivalry and conflict of strong personality.
What affect does this have on the community?
Nothing gets done: those elected as public servants can get so bogged down in their personal squabbles or vendettas against their colleagues that all their time is taken up butting heads over issues that normal people would be able to solve almost immediately. And then to make matters worse, it’s a very common occurrence that politicians will intentionally block ideas or initiatives presented by their colleagues not because of any real concern, but only because of the person it was presented by. This short-changes the people of the community and makes government ineffective. You can see examples of this from Capitol Hill to Advisory Neighborhood Commissions.
People become disengaged with the process: I’ve attended my fair share of public meetings that at times can resemble an elementary schoolyard with slightly less organization, decorum or composure (and not by the public). Back and forth exchanges, vulgar language and terrible management of the meeting are all constantly present, and surprisingly, not too many constituents find this entertaining or acceptable. I have actually sat in on numerous meetings where the behavior of those running the meeting has gotten so terrible, that attendees have gotten up and left, vowing to never return. People expect for their elected officials and community leaders to get things done and when they cannot get along long enough to solve the matters at hand, the public is very quick to give up on them and not venture to even be involved anymore.
Integrity, Faith and Legitimacy are lost: When elected officials (or those running for office) engage in such petty bickering, the faith that the people have in them to effectively do their job (or their capability to take office) is often lost. To a certain extent, the public looks for their elected officials to have “something more” than the average man and for those officials to be “in the gutter” all the time, not doing the work of the people but tending to their personal rivalries is disheartening. In turn, the little work that these officials do in between their underhanded infighting loses legitimacy in the eyes of the people. If you can’t have any “home training” and constantly embarrass your constituency with your personal behavior, all the rest doesn’t matter much.
Solution: Elected Officials: Have some class! Citizens: It’s sometimes the fault of we, the voters, for electing officials who have questionable public personas and in other instances it kind of just sneaks up on us. But we need to not only keep our officials accountable for doing the work they need to do, but also to behave in a way conducive of an elected official, but more importantly, a representative of the people. Usually, those go hand in hand. Personally, anyone who acts less than civilized in the public sphere or behind the closed doors of our government will never get my vote.