Politicians Suck. I Don't Want To.
May 11, 2010 9:21 AM   Subscribe

After months of behind-the-scenes work, I'll be running for U.S. Congress and announcing next week. My question to you: what is it that you've always wanted to hear a politician say or do?
posted by anonymous to Law & Government (66 answers total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
Tell the truth.
posted by Grither at 9:24 AM on May 11, 2010 [12 favorites]

Convince me that they will make the "right", "ethical", "best" decision on each and every issue, regardless of party line. And then follow through on that.
posted by HuronBob at 9:25 AM on May 11, 2010 [5 favorites]

Run openly as an atheist.
posted by mr_roboto at 9:30 AM on May 11, 2010 [62 favorites]

Be willing to vote against the party if that's what they have to do in order to do what they think is best for their constituents or keep a campaign promise.
I want this so, so bad.
I am fucking sick of partisanship.
Also, I want someone to promise to bring up legalizing gay marriage every fucking chance they get. What the hell? Why is this even an issue?
posted by Adridne at 9:30 AM on May 11, 2010 [4 favorites]

For US Congress? Show a clear understanding of the practical limitations of his/her power and ability to create and support an agenda, as well as comprehension of the compromises necessary to be a part of the party system. And explain why and how these things happen, and why and how you will interact within the system.

Someone showing total ignorance about the way the House (I assume, because if you're running for Senate as part of a major party, I don't think you'd be on here) works and simply proclaiming, "I will X, Y, and Z", when X is not within the ability of the Congress, Y can't happen thanks to the lack of legislative will, and you're willing to compromise on Z to get Q done, is naive.
posted by quadrilaterals at 9:30 AM on May 11, 2010 [7 favorites]

Announce that they don't believe in the power of the government to control the movement of human beings and that they plan to work to eradicate all borders.
posted by mr_roboto at 9:31 AM on May 11, 2010 [1 favorite]

There is not a single statement or stance I've ever wanted a single politician to say or take. But I do wish more politicians would talk straight about their views & plans - whatever they may be. It's an oft-repeated request, I know. But transparent communications, direct unambiguous answers, and unapologetic stances (lacking vitriol or condescension) can go a long way toward endearing me to a politician. I've crossed party lines for straight shooters.
posted by kables at 9:31 AM on May 11, 2010 [1 favorite]

Come out as an atheist.

Come out as a high-functioning drug user.
posted by grobstein at 9:31 AM on May 11, 2010 [4 favorites]

I've always dreamed of a politician who said, "I am running to represent your interests, and it is most important to me to run on a platform that reflects my constituency as much as possible."

That means, whatever your political party and whatever your own beliefs, treating Congressman as a JOB, and doing it best. Represent your constituents regardless of your own beliefs on matters political and personal.

Then, poll your locals, get to know them, go out, and find out what, truly, they want represented as "them" in Congress. If you campaign on a platform of "I will truly represent you, just tell me what you want," you're a shoo-in.

For reference:
1) I am really irritated by the nastiness that "flip-flopper" has engendered. Seriously, when is it so bad when a politician learns more about a subject and then makes a better decision? You should strive to learn as much as possible. For example, I didn't vote for Barack Obama for Congress when he was running because he was a huge supporter, at the time, of No Child Left Behind, which I thought was a terrible policy. Later, he learned more, and came out against it. Good job!

2) For a good example of a politician who lived this, check out Connie Morella, formerly R-MD. She was a Republican who sat in Congress for ages representing Maryland's 8th Congressional District, one of the country's heaviest Democratic strongholds. She was successful because she listened to her constituents and represented what they wanted regardless of her personal feelings on the matter.
posted by juniperesque at 9:32 AM on May 11, 2010 [5 favorites]

I'm not sure this is a question as much as a discussion. Maybe this thread should be moved to metatalk.

My answer would be "nothing," because everything you say is going to turn into that anyway. The machine is too big. You can talk all you want and you can present as many bills as you want, but unless you are toeing the line, you aren't going to get anywhere.

Tell the truth, sure, but I have a hard time believing in "the truth," well, the truth as it has come from all the other countless politicians before you.

Good luck, I guess.
posted by TheBones at 9:33 AM on May 11, 2010 [1 favorite]

I want politicians to do and say what they think is right, not what they think I want to hear.
posted by Ms. Saint at 9:35 AM on May 11, 2010 [2 favorites]

My question to you: what is it that you've always wanted to hear a politician say or do?

To not ask me that question, 'cause it sounds like you're fishing for votes but don't have a fucking clue. Seriously, it's CONGRESS, you're representing a district with specific needs and interests, you should know what it needs and be campaigning hard on that.

Pick the 3 most important issues in your district, say you're going to fight for those issues and then do it. Make it happen.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 9:38 AM on May 11, 2010 [16 favorites]

(1) Make Congress no longer exempt from the laws it passes - any of them - and make it retroactive;
(2) Eliminate automatic pay raises for Congress;
(3) Eliminate amendments/riders on appropriations bills that arguably have nothing to do with the bill per se but that are put there to fund pet projects via otherwise critical funding legislation;
(4) Reinstitute Proxmire's Golden Fleece awards to bring pork-barrel spending to light;
(5) Approve line-item veto;
(6) Require Congress to do the business of Congress and either pass or fail outstanding judicial and other appointments within a set time frame, instead of allowing continuing partisan delays or killing them in committee;
(7) Reduce/eliminate Congressional pensions;
(8) Require all Congresspersons to place their investments in blind trusts;
(9) Require congress/senate to be seated alphabetically, not by party affiliation.
(10) Censure members for lack of decorum;
(11) Provide federal funding for INDEPENDENT investigation and reporting on the veracity of elected representatives statements.
posted by Pressed Rat at 9:38 AM on May 11, 2010 [7 favorites]

Display a deep understanding of and respect for the public choice problem. If I believed that a politician had read, understood, and internalized the message of Tullock and Buchanan's Calculus of Consent, I'd be first in line to vote.
posted by decathecting at 9:49 AM on May 11, 2010

I am running to represent your interests, and it is most important to me to run on a platform that reflects my constituency as much as possible

I am pretty much the opposite on this. I believe that a congressperson should be honest in their opinions, the way they will vote, and when they will change their mind. No one can claim to truthfully represent an entire district: We elect the person we feel will act honestly and vote in the manner that is best for our country. If we feel that the elected person fails at this job, then we find someone else.
posted by Think_Long at 9:51 AM on May 11, 2010 [2 favorites]

I want to hear, in response to a question, "I don't know enough about that topic to give you a good answer, but I'll find out, and get back to you on it." Then do it.
posted by craven_morhead at 9:55 AM on May 11, 2010 [2 favorites]

I would be happy to hear an assurance that you are the kind of person who can work with other representatives, even those in the opposite party, to reach a needed solution to a public problem. Most politicians seem to give the impression that they do everything all by themselves.
posted by JanetLand at 10:02 AM on May 11, 2010

It is all about constituency services.

I care, to a certain extent on what you say, but I more concerned about what you DO.

1) make sure you that have a VERY GOOD staff that gets things done and that means replying back to constituents clearly; routing their problems and concerns to things that can be done and in general, an infrastructure so that you are not doing small crap;

2) Get a damn constituency-mobile with that cracker jack team of staffers (see up above) and again do outreach on the line of, "What can we do for YOU" -- cape is optional;

3) Know your district and that means sending your constituents congratulatory cards if they win the damn state fair for jelly making and oh yeah, be sure that it is a real signature (see #1 ) and yeah, use your franking privileges to send out that newsletter of not just what you did but your constituents too 'cause people LOVE to see their names and the names of those they are fond of in print;

The reason you want a great staff is that they will make you more effective by being the extra pair of eyes, hands, feet or whatever to knowing the lay of the land; policy and freeing YOU to focus on bigger concepts. By building constituency and social capital you have some cushion for making decisions; people in your district defending you and giving you the benefit of the doubt when a tough call was made.

If the only time I see you is when you are dishing out only red meat about the "other" or some stupid crap like that, then I know that your meat be tainted with stupid.

My husband and I ALWAYS know when someone is freaking doomed as a politician because we write a letter and wait to see the response. From that we determine how good their staff is and the cascade of decisions to run an office where you are running for election including senatorial office. Have a lame intern or staffer replying to concerned citizens in a condescending manner use fake bureaucratic terms? See you later buddy. Unless you are gerrymandered so well a la Bachmann and have a die hard single issue base, you got nothing.
posted by jadepearl at 10:03 AM on May 11, 2010 [3 favorites]

And, for the love of god, if you do get elected, do not cheat on your spouse.
posted by Adridne at 10:04 AM on May 11, 2010 [2 favorites]

Hire as your LD an attorney who both has significant Hill experience and is also experienced in practicing law (not lobbying or Hill work) in the area of that your constituents are most interested in changing. The more experienced lawyers you have on staff, the better you will understand what you're legislating. Never trust a Capitol Hill attorney who has not practiced law off the Hill.

Actually read the bills that you are asked to vote for or against. Yes, all of them, in their entirety. I'm not kidding about this. Yes, I know how long some of them are.

If you ever listen to or read analysis of any bill by a lobbyist, think tank, or interest group, including those with whom you generally agree, remember always that what they are calling "analysis" is actually advocacy, not analysis. Rely instead on a) your own analysis, b) the analysis of CBO, Leg. Counsel, CRS reports, and yc) the analysis of your own trusted and experienced attorneys.

Learn what proposed legislation actually says and does, and explain it to your constituents. Politicians generally don't do this. Instead, they either tout the ideological basis for and general predictions for outcomes of the bill or they rail against it based on ideology and general disapproval of the assumed goals of those advancing the measure. Nowhere was this more clearly the case than with health care reform. The Democrats never, ever said what the bill would actually do or explained why, exactly, the specific measures in the bill were a good idea - they didn't sell the bill at all. Likewise, the Republicans never, ever actually said what the bill did or analyzed specific reasons why they thought the bill was a bad idea. Instead, both sides fought about the assumed ideological basis for or against the legislation, with Democrats arguing that reform was necessary and Republicans arguing that whatever Democrats want to do runs contrary to general Republican philosophy of government. Don't do that.

Actually have ideas of what government can do to improve. Explain those ideas and implement them. Don't go into government if you're not going to govern. If you are simply opposed to government, then don't be part of it.

Never do anything that would cause the government to spend money unless you cut some other expenditure in an equal amount. If you cannot identify government expenditures that should be reduced, you are not smart enough to be a member of Congress.

Cut military spending, and cut it where it can realistically be cut. There is waste. Find it and eliminate it.

Never talk about anything unless you know what you're talking about.

When someone makes an assertion of fact or a statistic in trying to persuade you to support a measure, demand that they provide the source for that information. Then scrutinize that source. Never make an assertion of fact or cite a statistic unless you have scrutinized the source of that information and know it to be reliable.

Attend your committee meetings, read the prepared testimony beforehand, be educated on the substance of the hearing, and ask questions of witnesses with an eye toward actually learning about the subject of the hearing, rather than grilling them, making them look bad, or scoring political points. The purpose of hearings is to gather information to assist Congress in legislating or performing various oversight duties. Never use a hearing for any purpose other than that.

Don't play dirty. Ever. When your colleagues play dirty, justifying it because the other side also plays dirty, resist and don't do it.

Never, ever use the word "socialism," "socialist" or "socialized." Ever.

Never attack anyone or anything on ideological grounds. No matter what. Address the substance of proposed legislative measures, not whatever you perceive to be the ideological underpinnings thereof.

Identify an exhaustive set of core legislative principles and goals that you will not compromise no matter what. Set this as the baseline that you will not ever allow to be crossed. Never, ever support anything that would go contrary to those core principles and goals. During your campaign, tell your consituents what that baseline is, with specificity. Tell them that you will have to compromise on many things while serving them in Congress, but that you will never, ever compromise those core principles and goals, no matter what.

Watch a few hours of video of Barney Frank doing public appearances and interacting with constituents. Regardless of whether you agree or do not agree with Mr. Frank's political views, ideology, and legislative agenda, pay attention to the way he interacts with people. See how he is not only informed of the issues, but has also devoted substantial thought and his own analysis? See how he speaks to people intelligently and actually answers questions? See how he is dismissive of dumb or insulting constituents, where most politicians would coddle even the most offensive constituent interaction just to avoid losing a vote? Be like Barney Frank in those ways.

Wear the little gold lapel pin that indicates that you are a member of Congress. You're not famous, and people don't know you're a Member if you're not wearing the pin. So don't get self-important. You're not a rock star, you're not a movie star, and you're not a VIP. When someone doesn't recognize you or doesn't give you whatever level of deference that Members think they're due because they don't realize you're a Member, don't be surprised and don't get annoyed, offended, or be a jerk about it. A lot of people are going to be kissing up to you all the time. You've got to fight through that and remember that they're just sucking up because they want to take advantage of your position to their own advantage.
posted by The World Famous at 10:11 AM on May 11, 2010 [26 favorites]

Talk about what you hope to do, not about what is wrong with the other guys. So sick of partisanship. Get things done, as much as you can.
posted by Joh at 10:13 AM on May 11, 2010

Own your decisions and statements. If you make a decision, don't find the best way to spin it. Explain why you made it, and don't try to dazzle anyone with brilliance or baffle them with BS. If you say something, you own it, not "Um, well, when I said this I didn't mean this per se..." If it's something you should apologize for, do so, and remember that you own it.

The people who I've worked with that I've always thought the highest of are the ones who conduct themselves in this manner. I can handle bad news if you give it to me straight. If you cloak that bad news in a blanket of BS, or if you make someone else responsible for your decisions, that's when I'll get really upset.
posted by azpenguin at 10:18 AM on May 11, 2010 [1 favorite]

You could do worse than adhere to the following:

Help maintain a healthy, respectful discussion by focusing comments on the
issues, topics, and facts at hand—not at other members of the site.

Please limit comments to answers or help in finding an answer. Wisecracks don't help people find answers.

And: Don't promise to always or solely do what your constituents want. Sometimes what we want is impractical, immoral, or just plain dumb. Don't leave your brain in the cloakroom when you go to vote.
posted by rtha at 10:21 AM on May 11, 2010 [3 favorites]

People who think politicians suck don't vote, especially in midterm elections. The people who vote expect to be inspired, or simply taken care of, by politicians, and vote for or against them accordingly.

I would find nothing more inspiring than a politician who rejects all sentimental nostrums of the left and the right. In the long run you can't spend more than you tax. In the long run you can't expect a better lifestyle than an Indian or Chinese person of the same IQ and work ethic as you. Wars work to destroy an enemy; they fail miserably at social work or democratic tutelage. You get more of what you subsidize, so don't subsidize undesirable behavior even if feels good to do so. Principled opposition is one thing, but hypocrisy has no place -- in other words, a creationist who goes to a doctor instead of a Christian Science practitioner really should have no say in biology curricula.
posted by MattD at 10:22 AM on May 11, 2010 [1 favorite]

Subsidize public transportation as much as highways.

Create a safe coast-to-coast bike route.
posted by slidell at 10:26 AM on May 11, 2010 [3 favorites]

After you get elected, start getting tattoos on your hands, neck and face.
posted by box at 10:34 AM on May 11, 2010 [2 favorites]

I'd like to hear of one representative in Washington who actually reads (and can explain) every bill he or she votes on.

I'd also like a pony.
posted by DaveP at 10:34 AM on May 11, 2010

I agree with a lot of the suggestions above, and this isn't necessarily the most practical thing, but I like to see politicians treating their terms in office as serious jobs rather than extended re-election campaigns. Focus more on your work than on clinging to power for dear life.
As for campaigning, I'd like to see a politician who is a) quite intelligent and b) not ashamed of it. But I doubt that would get you elected.
posted by phisbe at 10:36 AM on May 11, 2010

Based on this question you have all the makings of the status quo.
posted by whiskeyspider at 10:37 AM on May 11, 2010 [3 favorites]

I've always wanted to hear: "It is not my job as your representative to impose my religious beliefs on public policy. I will not allow my religious beliefs or the religious beliefs of my colleagues to influence the government of this country."
posted by litnerd at 10:42 AM on May 11, 2010 [3 favorites]

I DON'T want a congressman to say he will 'represent my interest' or 'do what is best for the constituency'. The US Congress is the most powerful deliberative body that has ever been known. Daily they make decisions that effect not just every one in this country, but every soul on Earth, and those decisions aren't instantly reversible, they last for years and years and years.

The last thing in the world that body needs is another parochial, myopic, self contradicting mouth. So, show me you are a mind in stead. Show a commitment to the long term and to the whole country and all of its people.

Do not say you're going to fight pork and get the new through way built (or whatever the project du jour is); that's worst than manure because it feeds nothing but mindless weeds. I don't want to hear that you are going to limit government; I want to hear how you will make the government more responsive and proactive. The first is just an abrogation of duty, and allows those few with much power to take more.

If you are a scion of wealth, I want to hear, really hear your appreciation of the advantages you received and of the duties you think that brings. If you have self made wealth, I don't want to claim that gives you insight into the working of government or the life of those who have not succeeded as well as you (it does neither); tell me how you appreciate the opportunities and talents you've benefited from (because none of us can claim responsibilities for our genes or our education.), and how you will use those talents for everyone else and, yes, what duties you expect those other to fill too. If you are a "community organizer" without personal wealth, I still want to hear what you expect the fortunate to give the country and what you will do to make sure there will always be some with enough to perform those functions.

Yes, I want to hear you say that you will listen to me and the other district residents, that our concerns will be your concerns, but not that that will be the deciding factor in all your votes. I want to hear that you will become the expert, that you will become the most informed person that lives in this area. Perhaps not in every function of government, but in some of them, and definitely in the ways of Congress, and that you will use that expertise towards the long term strength of the country, and of the world too.

Finally, the preamble of the Constitution lays out six purposes of government. I would truly love to hear a politician recite those in each speech, debate, and interview, then pick a different one of the six each time, and tell what it means to him and how he is going to fulfill that guarantee in office.
posted by Some1 at 10:48 AM on May 11, 2010 [1 favorite]

Have some facts with numbers to back up your claims and your plans. If you're going to refer me to your website for further information, have some actual facts there with links to source material rather than more unsupported claims.
posted by mattholomew at 10:50 AM on May 11, 2010

Pay raises for politicians must be tied to the same percentage increase to the minimum wage within their jurisdiction.
posted by rocket88 at 10:54 AM on May 11, 2010

Understand that your constituency includes everyone in district, not just those who voted for you.
posted by desuetude at 10:57 AM on May 11, 2010 [3 favorites]

your district, that is
posted by desuetude at 10:58 AM on May 11, 2010

I would vote for someone of either party if that person would only convince me that they are in office to do the 'right thing' whatever that is, and not just to play the politics.

In other words, someone who is honest about their intentions and their work.
posted by eas98 at 11:14 AM on May 11, 2010

Well, if you want my hypothetical vote the magic words are "I am the nominee of the Democratic Party." Unless you're in a dead safe Democratic seat, in which case "I am the nominee for the Green Party" might work if the Democrat is running too far to the right. Oh, or if you're running in Vermont "I am the nominee for the Vermont Progressive Party" might do it.

Presuming you meet those criteria (and if you don't, you're not getting my hypothetical vote), the way to get me excited about you is if you tell me that you're representing the Democratic wing of the Democratic party (or the Green wing of the Green party or the Vermont Progressive Party wing of the Vermont Progressive Party, I guess). Tell me that you like Left things (expanding health care, raising taxes on the extremely wealthy, increasing welfare, SUPPORTING LABOR UNIONS), and that you want to work to get as many other people who like Left things in office and organized to fight for Left things, and I'll like you a lot. Tell me that politicians suck and I'll know that you will never accomplish anything in congress aside from hopefully being an extra vote on the right (by which I mean, Left) side. Nevertheless, I'll hold my nose and vote for you, provided you have a (D) after your name.

If you want a signature issue for yourself personally (again, provided you meet the criteria in the first paragraph), you can do worse than supporting more funding to transit. Oh, or supporting increased unionization (the way to do this is through supporting card check).

That said, on a non-hypothetical level I'm not going to vote for you — I'm registered in this guy's district and I think he's awesome.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 11:15 AM on May 11, 2010

I want a politician to tell me openly and directly that he/she is going to do what's right for the people the politician represents rather than what's right for a political party.

I also want a politician who isn't a bald faced liar, which (sadly) I have to assume you are since you're a politician. Here's an example: any politician who changes his or her opinion on a topic based on party politics rather than on the beliefs of the people being represented is a liar and not worth my vote. Political talking points are lies and we all know it. I'm sick of turning on my TV and seeing scumbag politicians arguing that something is bad simply because the other side endorses it. Would anyone really want to raise their children that way? God, I hope not.

Be better than that.
posted by 2oh1 at 12:01 PM on May 11, 2010 [1 favorite]

Now that I think of it, though — what I've always wanted to hear politicians say (other than that they understand how important parties are and party organization is) is that they understand that great wealth breeds great poverty, since great wealth is made through extracting as much value as possible from workers while giving them as little compensation as possible, and that to attack the problem of poverty meaningfully you also have to attack wealth.

Oh, and good constituent service helps, too.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 12:04 PM on May 11, 2010 [1 favorite]

That you will not play ball with party lines, lobbyists, unspoken rules, behind-the-scenes machinations. That you will extend zero professional courtesy to your fellow Congressmen, and will expose their corruption as loudly and repeatedly as possible. That you will be such a successful gadfly that your own party will refuse to give you any committee assignments, you will have no legislative power whatsoever, and the CIA will tap your phones, eagerly hoping for some minor ethical violation that could be used to kick you out.
posted by equalpants at 12:07 PM on May 11, 2010

Oh, but you should say the thing above in a way that doesn't sound so overtly Marxist, since that scares off voters. There are many quotes from the Gospels, though, that embody the same sentiment. Find those quotes, and say them.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 12:14 PM on May 11, 2010

There are many quotes from the Gospels, though, that embody the same sentiment. Find those quotes, and say them.

You might have a hard time finding a quote in the Gospels that says that the government should seek to eliminate wealth. The Gospels don't say much about what the government should or should not do.
posted by The World Famous at 12:37 PM on May 11, 2010

Let me add to that by telling you what I wish politicians would do:

Don't pretend that the Bible says anything about what the government should do or that there is some reasonable interpretation of some holy book that says that you should be a member of Congress.
posted by The World Famous at 12:39 PM on May 11, 2010 [1 favorite]

Realize that the marginalized--kids in foster care, men and women in prison, folks without shelter, those with mental illnesses, etc--are real, live people.

I don't care what you say. If you are elected, though, I want you to have trouble sleeping at night if even one person in your district is homeless, slipping through the cracks of the education system, falling victim to abuse and not getting help. I want you to feel the blood on your hands when a soldier from your district dies in war and when (if applicable) your state uses capital punishment to end a person's life.

Stand up for all your constituents, but even you won't hear from those who really need your advocacy, because in our society today they don't have a voice at all.
posted by sallybrown at 12:48 PM on May 11, 2010

Meaning no more offense than is necessary, but if you're asking this, you are what we call a "hopeless" candidate. So the only meaningful advice I can give you is "Don't take on any debt."

In direct answer to your query, I'd like to hear you say "I will vote however Pelosi tells me to vote, every damn time."
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 12:49 PM on May 11, 2010 [2 favorites]

I know politicians who suck.

I know politicians who won't vote on a bill without doing a telephone poll to find out what they should do; that's not leadership. It's abandoning our faith that you will research and find out more about an issue and it's consequences and then convince us where we should go.

I know politicians who run on their party brand and claim that they will be even more conservative or liberal than the last person who was in office. The end result is an abyss of partisanship.

I know politicians who only talk about what the popular news/issue du jour might be and don't bother with asking people what else might be important to them.
posted by stevis at 1:17 PM on May 11, 2010

Wow. I can't BELIEVE how much crap you've made me think about with this question. Bravo, Mr./Ms. Congressional candidate!

What I really think you should do:
Just understand that many people in the US are having a hard time, that there are ways in which the Government can help ease such suffering, and that you will do your best to use your mind and your skill to help those people. And, be willing to say that out loud.

Washington is a complicated sausage factory. If you can assure people that the sausages that roll out on the conveyor belt on your watch will be good, and follow through on that, then you're ahead of the game.

Don't listen to Rush Limbaugh, any other TV/Radio pundit, or the Washington "Common Wisdom" when deciding how to vote on a measure. Use your own compass and common sense. And, be willing to say that you'll do all that out loud, too.

My fantasy will-never-happen personal-politics wishlist:
* Go on record saying that Ronald Reagan was one of the worst presidents in history, and that many of our problems today comes directly from his legacy, 30 years later.
* State loudly and proudly that no candidate who tells voters that Government is their problem should ever be elected to public office, and that no one who hates government that much will ever do a good job as a part of government.
* Reassert that the United States is not a Theocracy, that our system of Government intentionally has no basis in the Bible or any religious text, and that this is the very reason why we exist today as a great nation.

The last thing I want to impart is what I like to see in a rep. Listen to some of Alan Grayson's floor speeches from YouTube. You may not agree with him, you might even be diametrically opposed. Whatever. But, DAMN if that guy doesn't know how to shake things up and stand on what he believes in. He makes people uncomfortable, and he gets stuff done. That's how you should roll, whatever party platform or philosophy guides you.
posted by Citrus at 1:34 PM on May 11, 2010 [2 favorites]

Express your faith in reality-based decision making. "I trust the scientific paradigm of knowledge, and that while it is occasionally produces a mistaken understanding of the world, it self-corrects in time, and is our best basis for judging policy decisions. "
posted by stevis23 at 1:42 PM on May 11, 2010 [2 favorites]

Don't say stuff just because you think your constituency wants to hear it.
posted by desuetude at 1:44 PM on May 11, 2010

I want my elected representative to do as her constituents ask, not whatever the hell she wants. Every time I write my congressional representative and ask her to do the right thing she writes me back six weeks later to tell me that the thing I wanted is not on the platform of the party she belongs to. I say, kiss my foot, my representative should represent our town, not the punk-ass Washington agenda. I don't know if you are male or female, but either way, don't be a punk-ass bitch.
posted by toastedbeagle at 1:53 PM on May 11, 2010

Run as if you're going to be in office for only two years and you're going to have a hell of a good time and speak your mind without compunction while doing so.

Listen to and respect all voices, even if they sound kooky at first. Demonstrate that you hear the feelings and worries behind the complaint, and that you will work to address those issues to the best of your abilities, even if it isn't in the exact manner the person intended.

Give weight to the opinions you hear based on the number of people affected by those policies, not the time they spend with you or the money or influence they contribute.

I have a few pet issues I'd love to hear addressed:

* National standards for legislative redistricting, along the lines of Iowa's or Washington's.
* Increasing the number of representatives in Congress from 435.
* Encourage multi-winner Proportional Representation (5 seats per district) for State and US legislative districts and Approval or Score Voting for single-winner elections.
* Fund R&D into Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactors, both for energy production and reprocessing of spent fuel from standard LWR nuclear energy.
posted by Araucaria at 2:01 PM on May 11, 2010

what is it that you've always wanted to hear a politician say or do?

"I'm so sorry I walked around the Senate floor kicking everyone in the family jewels, but I just couldn't help myself. Christ, what a bunch of assholes."
posted by JaredSeth at 2:18 PM on May 11, 2010


Be accountable for your time - put up on your website exactly how you have accounted for your time each month, and what you achieved. Even if it's in powerpoint or something.
posted by trialex at 3:37 PM on May 11, 2010

Do what they say and say what they do.

i.e. be open, honest, ethical, with follow-through and feed-back. If you have to sell a little of your soul to get your people the bigger prize, then say so (maybe not in these words! LOL) Not in vague ways, but explain things as if everyone is on your team and deserves to know what's going on.
posted by _paegan_ at 3:59 PM on May 11, 2010

Pledge never ever to take money or gifts from lobbyists. This includes dinner, transportation, anything and everything that has any sort of benefit or monetary value. Stay true to that pledge.
posted by stoneweaver at 4:13 PM on May 11, 2010

Support the Fair Elections Act.
posted by novalis_dt at 6:04 PM on May 11, 2010

I've always wanted to be treated like an adult. I like to think that I can handle complexity and ambiguity. I realize that there are no easy answers, magic bullets, or free lunches. The main thing that pisses me off about politicians is when they feed my and my fellow voters sound bites and catchy aphorisms.

If you give me facts, I can make up my mind about your position.
If you give me down-home homilies, I will think that you think that I am an idiot, and I will hate you for it.
posted by lekvar at 6:22 PM on May 11, 2010 [1 favorite]

-Avoid sweeping generalizations about the opposing political party; do not attribute flawed ideas to their being "liberal" or "right-wing". Always explain WHY the idea is flawed.

-Do not be afraid to give praise to an idea offered by a political opponent, even if you have to mention that portions of it are flawed.

-Do not attribute flaws in your opponent's ideas to some evil that is almost certainly not your opponent's motivation: "racist", "socialist," etc.

-Do not speak in platitudes.

-Don't be afraid to admit mistakes. Be honest, at all times be HONEST.

-Your career as a representative will be to represent your constituents, not to campaign for re-election or higher office. Serve as if you were going to retire from politics at the end of your term.

-Act in the interests of your constituents, your party be damned. Remember that while your party makes your life easy or hellish while in office, your constituents put and keep you there.

-Do everything you can to keep your party and your constituency from drifting farther off to whatever side they're on. That means publicly disavowing supporters carrying hyperbolic placards declaring Obama to be a socialist/Kenyan citizen or Republicans as being racist homophobes.

-Do not make a political issue out of non-political causes typically espoused by members of your party. This means religious and moral issues. To the extent that moral issues intersect with political/legal ones, you may take positions and act on those political/legal issues. For example: Your stance on abortion is guided by your position on state's rights to set individual policy or not, not whether it's morally wrong or not.

- It's easy to argue against the opposing party, but be sure to take on critics from your own party head on as well.

- Make available on your website listings of ALL campaign donations and ALL meetings with lobbyists and ALL gifts, travel packages, etc. received from them.

- Explain publicly detailed reasons WHY you vote for or against a given measure. Again, don't speak in platitudes.

- No publicity stunts. If you want to join a Passover Seder or Midnight Mass, go ahead, but don't publicly announce it and don't document it with photographs or press releases. These are personal events.

- Don't pretend for a second that you have all the answers. Consult with experts on pressing issues-- hopefully those with conflicting opinions-- in order for you to make an informed decision on what's best.

-Never, EVER, engage in ad hominem attacks against your fellow congressmen. Always hold the moral high ground.

-Do what you promised, but if you can't, give a damn good explanation as to why. That's the only way you can regain the trust of your constituency.
posted by holterbarbour at 7:28 PM on May 11, 2010

As much as it pains me to say this: Ignore the people telling you to serve as if your term ends at the end of the first two years and to not be campaigning. You cannot accomplish anything in two years, no matter who you are or what tactics you try. You're going to have to spend a lot of time campaigning during each term - that's the nature of the job. If you don't do that, the constituents who put you there will not keep you there, no matter how great you are. And you will accomplish nothing, no matter how great you are.
posted by The World Famous at 7:42 PM on May 11, 2010

Two words: Performance Art.
posted by spinifex23 at 9:58 PM on May 11, 2010 [1 favorite]

There isn't any. Just really really really work hard to know your district and your constituents and to build a base of support in your community. I tend to agree with ROU_Xenophobe here. Finding a few right things to say isn't what it's about, if you're serious.
posted by citron at 10:29 PM on May 11, 2010

I'm a big fan of Dennis Prager's sentiment that "Clarity is more important than agreement." No one on earth is going to agree with you on everything, but too many politicians bullshit and obfuscate their actual positions in an attempt to appeal to everyone, or at least the widest possible base of their party. You'd certainly get my respect for laying out accurately and honestly what you stand for. You might not get my vote, if I don't, on balance, agree with those positions, but I'd certainly appreciate the clarity.
posted by zanni at 4:04 AM on May 12, 2010

If a constituent or reporter or any old schmoe off the street asks you a question, answer the fucking question, directly. Don't repeat bullshit "talking points," don't evade, don't "reframe" the question, don't equivocate.
posted by FelliniBlank at 1:12 PM on May 22, 2010

"I think you'd make a great speechwriter. You're hired."

Aside from that, well, I like articulate politicians who can avoid dumbing down complex issues, even as I realize that dumbing down complex issues is pretty necessary to reaching a broad audience.

And yeah, answer the questions you're asked, even if it's an ugly answer. But be aware that there's no one size fits all stuff.

Keep us up to date! I'd love to help with a MeFite's campaign.
posted by klangklangston at 1:28 PM on May 23, 2010 [2 favorites]

So… Any updates? We just had our primary…
posted by klangklangston at 8:15 AM on June 9, 2010

So… Any updates? We just had our election...
posted by Alt F4 at 7:58 PM on November 3, 2010

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