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Why is Being an Elected Official So Addicting?

Jeff Hall

Posted on August 8, 2017 10:26

3 users

The ego rush is huge; the realities of governance are often quite boring; the results speak for themselves.

I've always been interested in politics and have covered a zillion political events of one sort or another. 

I have attended public hearings, interviewed candidates, attended rallies, visited with elected officials in City Hall or Congress or wherever they hang out.

I have interviewed elected officials who seemed to have all the time in the world; I once rode an elevator with Jerry Brown and that was the extent of our conversation.

Generally speaking, it's clear that most elected officials like serving as elected officials.  They are always the center of attention, and people hang on their every word and decision.  Aides scurry about and starting looking nervous when a meeting is about to go into overtime.

Plus it's not a bad gig when it comes to the economics.  They are usually paid well, they enjoy terrific benefits, and, because of gerrymandering or the difficulties of taking on an incumbent, their job security is quite high.

And, if they face term limits, there's always another office opening up somewhere.

I've heard it said many times that politicians are politicians because they couldn't possibly get a job in the real world doing actual work.

I find this a tad cynical; I've know some elected officials who really know and care about the issues and who start very early each day -- and who are last ones in bed at night.  They wouldn't do this, I don't think, if they didn't believe.

Alas, these folks seem to be a bit of an endangered species. 

For far too many, it's all about getting re-elected.  And that means fundraisers, lots of boring meetings, lots of giving the same speech over and over. 

Public hearings are often deadly -- people going on and on about some trivial aspect of a trivial proposal -- with each side predicting the end of the world if the other side gets its way.

But to look at the elected official's face during these marathon sessions, he or she always nods as if listening intently, like he or she really cares, no matter how boring and inconsequential the meeting really is. 

Many officials learn the art of "saying things just right" -- it all sounds good, but it's not clear what their words really meant. 

This dance can go on and on for years and years, and the actual results in City Hall, the state capital or Washington can be pretty minimal. 

I should think this would drive most normal people crazy, but our elected officials just keep on going, zooming from one meeting to the next. 

A few years ago there was a ballot measure in California that passed, cutting off all pay for elected officials until a budget was passed.  Something like eight budgets in a row had come in late.

When the "no budget, no pay" rule took effect, lo and behold -- a budget was passed -- on time.  People need to rise up, speak out -- and take action.  Otherwise, we're merely subsidizing very expensive ego trips for a handful.

 

Jeff Hall

Posted on August 8, 2017 10:26

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Sarah Wasko / Media Matters Broadcast and cable news’ reluctance to talk about gerrymandering, let alone address the outsized...

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