I’ve been asked once or twice whether I would consider standing for public office.
Although my ego tells me I’d quite like being called Mayor or Councillor Carson, my practical mind steers me to other more sensible pursuits. Such as editing a community newspaper, which, apart from being a big conflict of interest with an elected role, takes plenty of my time already, thank you.
But the thought of a public position has made me think about how I would run a campaign. I have to say I’d probably quite enjoy campaigning, mainly because I would have fun telling the truth.
That means I would ask people to vote for me on the basis that I would promise them nothing. That’s right – nothing.
How refreshing would that be for the voting public?
The reason I would offer no promises is because promises are notoriously hard to keep.
I’d like to say the public is not silly, but some people are. Most voters won’t believe a thing you say, especially if you promise outrageously and extravagantly.
Others, however, will accept the rantings of often populist politicians who rail against – well, everything. They will create the illusion of pending disaster, offer the solutions, and fix the problems if you’ll just vote for them.
Left-wing paedophiles and gangland thugs? Yep, we should bring back capital punishment. Build the gallows now!
I’m not suggesting our recent candidates and newly elected politicians have been disingenuous in their campaigning. They’ve all made various promises, because that’s what campaigns are all about.
And those promises can vary wildly, depending on your experience in “the system”.
If you’ve already been a mayor, councillor or community board member, the promises usually have to be tempered by the fact that you’ve already had the opportunity to deliver. But someone with no experience of politics can shoot from the outside in and always find a ready target without the danger of self-injury.
It’s often why populists can be successful, but as we’ve seen in the “greatest nation on earth”, things can unravel pretty quickly when reality and verifiable truth interfere.
Also, “the system” of local government can be a wild beast to anyone with no knowledge of its workings. It means that even if an elected official is earnest about an issue, it might not be in the power of officers to institute the changes necessary.
I’m always somewhat bemused by candidates who say they’ll reduce “bloated” staff numbers to save money, but then realise that many of those same staff are bogged down answering official information requests from aggrieved members of the public.
So if I do have a brain fade and put myself forward for public office, don’t expect any promises.
Ian is editor of Ōtaki Today
Ian Carson is editor of Ōtaki Today.
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