An online journal of politics, policy, and society with a special focus on Maryland -- Contact: on_background at yahoo.com.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Office-Seekers: A Breed Apart

Just so we're clear, the focus of this blog for a bit is going to be as stated on the previous piece -- an anonymous but honest take on the sausage factory that is the law making process, and the chaos of politics and advocacy that surrounds it.

So, let's talk about candidates for a minute, shall we? Let's talk about that tiny sliver of Americans who never outgrew the urge to run for class president, who truly believe they can make a difference, who somehow believe they can win, who put themselves forward when the rest of us focus on our jobs and our lives, who it seems will say or do whatever is necessary to win office, who are willing to brave our scorn, criticism and various barbs. Who are they?

One would-be office seeker I met not too long ago was so full of his ideas and himself that he never stopped speaking, on the phone or in person. He talked on and on, with little concern for my interest, my ideas, or even politeness. Eventually I realized he wasn't talking to me or for my benefit, he was just enjoying talking. I stopped listening. When he finally stopped talking, sometimes even before he stopped, I ended the conversation. Needless to say, he didn't get my support.

Now listening one of the most important abilities of a successful leader. Listening gets you the intel you need to understand the swing vote, potential donor, supporter, information leaker, power broker or friend. Listening also makes the person you're talking to think you really care about them, their ideas, their needs, and the group they are part of. We are told that Bill Clinton is a master of making you feel listened to, cared for, and for a few seconds the most important person in the world. Surely that is a power to be envied and emulated.

Ooh, here's another important lesson for the would-be politicos in the room. And this is one of the one's you wouldn't think you'd need, but obviously you do. Keep track of people who help you, who contact you, and who you know, and keep in contact with them. Nothing pisses off a former donor, door knocker, or supporter more than having you forget them after you get elected, get your bill passed, or finish whatever effort it was you initially asked them for. I know more than one political activist who has actually worked against their former friend just because they felt used and forgotten.

And campers, this doesn't just happen when you are the President of the United States gets 20 billion letters or the long serving legislator gets to old to play the game. No, right here in Maryland there is a young local leader who neglected people who walked for her in her rush to move up, so now her foundation is crumbling from neglect. Another Maryland officeholder still looking up the ladder for his next position seems to have left behind even members of his steering committee when they needed his help. Don't let that happen to you boys and girls; your foundation is your strength for the future if you keep it solid, but no foundation is so secure it can be forgotten.