For me, the “P” in politics stands for parent. Last year while serving in the Georgia General Assembly as State Representative for District 62, I lost both of my parents to cancer. Ironically, my mother, the second of the two to pass within seven months, died on “crossover day”—the last day to get a bill from one chamber to the next before it goes to the Governor for signature. Her symbolic crossover crossed me out of politics and deeper into my role as a parent. As the mother of two grade school age children, without the support of my parents, I had to make the very easy decision to put politics on the shelf so I could be the parent my sweet perfect children deserved.
Stepping away from what many consider a secret society, allows me the ability to put perspective into true politics. Spending only four years as a politician allowed me to maintain my perspective as a common citizen. Now I want to share with the world truths about politics.
I am leaving to be a parent; yet knowing my personality, I probably couldn’t have persevered in State level politics for several reasons: (1) partisan politics (2) political personalities or (3) the lack of participation by the people. I give a grave side-eye to all three.
(1) Partisan Politics
Disclaimer – I did not partake in partisan politics prior to running for office. Good thing I did not. Guaranteed, I would have never endeavored to run for office had I known what it meant to be affiliated with the fraternity that is partisan politics.
I am a Democrat because frankly, I am not a Republican. I cannot call myself an independent because although I look at political policies without considering which party presented them, far more often I side ideologically with the progressive party. I have a hard time arguing for conserving the constitution because when it was drafted people like me didn’t have input.
But what disturbs me most is that those deeply ingrained in partisanship seem to be more concerned with advocating for “the party” and not for the people. In all fairness, both main political parties think they are serving the people and to serve they must be in power. To be in power, “the party” must think to the future. The problem is that to remain in power is a numbers game. That means keeping a scorecard based on who brings forth the policy and not the merit of the policy itself. In more egregious circumstances that mean that if you do not participate in what the party wants, you are cut from the pack. Your proposals and policies are ignored, and your contributions sidelined by your own party.
So, imagine how difficult it was for an independent thinker and lawyer to boot to fit in. The first time I got one of “those” looks because I dared to question the leadership, I took it as a challenge. I was a terribly clumsy child, raised in a household without money; I did not get to play team sports so I truly never understood “group thinking”.
I would have never fit in with the party, except that the ridiculousness of the other party kept me loyal to the group I felt was most sane.
(2) Political Personalities
Politics wouldn’t be nearly as bad if it didn’t attract the weirdest people. To be a politician you have to have enough ego to think people will choose you and enough ego to think you are best for the job. If a person had an ego before they ran for office after all the pomp and circumstance; after beating at least one other person who competed for the job; and after being given a title that automatically makes doors open…the ego can be un-checkable. All of those egos can make for some unpleasant personalities. Not all politicians have dreadful personas. But those who do are unpleasant enough to drive a person crazy. There is the “how dare you challenge my leadership” persona, the “do little but talk much” persona, the “I am retired so why not” persona, and many more personas. I would call mine the “I think you are being petty and I am impatient” persona. Had I not lost my parental units there is no doubt the personalities of the politicians would have run me off. Either that or the fact I was arrested for assault for knocking one of the politicians in the mouth that would have had me booted from office. Glad I didn’t hang around long enough to find out.
(3) Participation of the People…or lack thereof
I ran for office because I believed the system could work. I truly did and I still do. I believe the system works if we worked it. If people had to pay as much attention to elections as they did a paycheck or the taxes removed from it, the system could work. Yes, there are glitches, but those glitches are allowed because a very small number of people are involved. This is a big country made up of large states, filled with numerous cities; therefore it takes everyone to make it work.
Truth be told, lack of participation is because politics is complicated, but it doesn’t have to be. Yet to understand why it has remained complicated see reasons #1 and #2. Politics was created to exclude some and benefit others. Now the practice of exclusion has changed to keep parties in power.
Yet, even if you get away from the purposeful complication, you still have local issues controlled by the people. Many times I had to wonder “do people even care?” Even if we are pre-occupied with family, bills and life; if you are an adult you have to know politics affects your family, bills and life right?!? This is not to advocate that every person should run for office. But at least vote as a first step and fight for your needs as a second. The lack of involvement of the people probably was the most disheartening of all three of the things that made me find a silver lining to the death of my parents.
Maybe when my children are grown, I’ll be a little older, wiser and better able to handle partisanship, personalities and lack of participation. For now, I’ll focus on parenting and telling the truth about politics.