Press-Republican

Columns

September 9, 2012

Must we always win?

We are in the midst of election season. The big parties have had their nominating conventions. The word of the day is “win.” Locally, I go to school board meetings and I hear about who wants to get paid for what, and I hear about working conditions. I’m confused.

Does an individual really win an election, or do we select the best candidate? Is school spending about the parents and the teachers, or is it about the kids and taxpayers? Are we a bit off kilter here? I am wondering if when “they” “win,” we lose.

The lore of the intentions of our founding fathers was that politics was something one does part time. Our leaders served out of a sense of noblesse oblige, in fulfillment of a higher calling that should, once in a lifetime, call for each of us.

We do not “win” such a calling any more than a priest “wins” being called to the cloth. Rather, we do so through our sense of civic duty.

It is this duty to civilization that should be the focus of politics, from the presidency to the school board or zoning committee. It is not about our leaders, but is rather about us, the taxpayer.

Now, I realize it would be a lot to ask of our leaders to make this noble sacrifice for very long. After all, we want people to do the job out of a sense of dedication to something bigger than each of us, and not to dedication to the almighty buck. Indeed, if we make political service financially attractive, we all of a sudden shift a motivation from noblesse oblige to notorious opportunism.

We want people to serve on our behalf not because it is easy and lucrative, but because it is hard and requires sacrifice. We may not even want the independently wealthy who could most easily afford public office to serve because they may be induced to serve longer than their term.

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