06 February 2013

The Growing Divide between the Representative & the Represented

This is so very, very good. Glen Pearson gets right to the heart of the problem of the growing disconnect of citizens from their governments and politics generally. The entire piece is excellent and I urge people to read it in its entirety.

A few snippets:

There is ... a survival mechanism in citizens that learns to ignore, even despise, the machinations of MPs, MPPs, prime ministers, councillors, reeves and mayors. It is a bitter lesson to learn as a politician that your own ineffectiveness, limited by polarization, earns you the title of 'redundant' in the eyes of citizens. They must go on with the important things of their lives because they can no longer count on you to place their interest above that of your party....

Citizens have learned to do without you and you slowly learn to take them less and less into account.... You become an anomaly: a politician without a people. They grow confused at your aims, baffled and exasperated at your preference for party over people, and your refusal to take the important things of their lives into account....

You can champion [your constituents'] cause or not. Your tragedy is that you won’t pay the price to do that. Their tragedy is that they have given up on looking for someone who will.

The problem transfers to political contests, whether they be elections, nominations or leadership races. With the exception of citizens who are staunch partisans, voters and the potentially represented want to hear and see your passion about policy, not bombast vilifying personalities.

Consensus can rarely be achieved when politicians have demonized those in other parties, when they have created an atmosphere of Us vs. Them. Indeed, in today's politics, consensus appears to be the furthest from any politician's mind.

At least that's how citizens read it.

As a (potential) politician, if you want more disengagement of your party's membership or the citizenry, keep up with the status quo and continue your allegiance to party at all costs. If you have entered, or plan to enter politics, because you care about the issues important to those seeking to be represented, then: stand your ground, offer and be passionate about the issues, be bold in presenting your solutions, and don't back down from those who would target you and not your proposed policies.

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