Saturday, November 21, 2009

Tis the Season

Over the years, I’ve worked with several hundred candidates running for various offices… I can’t say for sure how many, because I lost count a good while back (around the same time I started forgetting their names).

A lot of new candidates, I’ve noticed, start thinking about running for office -- or decide to run for office -- during the holiday season... between Thanksgiving and New Years Day.

It makes sense. There are the family get-togethers and Christmas parties where the topic of conversation can easily turn to politics. And there’s always planning for the New Year, including resolutions, where items which have been lingering at the bottom of the Things To Do list (like “run for office”) get pushed to the top.

As a result of these combined factors, during the next few weeks, a lot of new candidates will decide to toss their hats into the ring of politics.

It’s a good thing. I’m ready for a whole new crop of ‘em.

Don’t get me wrong. The elected officials we have now are not bad people. I like many of them. Some are friends of mine.

But I think of my elected officials sorta like I think of my underwear. No matter how comfortable it may feel, I still want to change it every once in a while.

Now more than ever, we need new blood in government… at ALL levels. Americans like to vent their frustration on Congress, but the fact is that each local elected official – school trustees, county councilmen, legislators – can have a far more direct impact on your life than your Congressman.

Due to the tough economic times we are currently facing, all governments are facing more serious challenges than normal. Some of the folks occupying those offices seemed incapable of solving the old problems, much less new problems that now need to be solved with less money.

My solution to meeting the challenges facing our local, state, and federal governments is a simple one: Elect old people.

After nearly four decades of helping elect candidates – hundreds and hundred of ‘em -- to almost every kind of political office, I have arrived at one very firm conclusion: Old people make the best elected officials. (Note: I am referring to those who are already Old People when they are first elected, not to those who get elected when they are young, but hang around in office until they become old. Those Old People are better known as “Career Politicians”.)

There are some obvious reasons Old People make the best elected officials.

1. They’re retired, therefore they have no conflicts of interest with their careers. (Most elected officials are still in the middle of their careers… and, when confronted with a decision, they always come down on the side of their own personal interest. If they didn’t they probably wouldn’t have their jobs the next day.)

2. They have experience: a whole lifetime of it. Sure, those young politicians often have that eager-beaver energy and enthusiasm… but nothing beats experience. (Don’t believe it? Think about leading an army in wartime. Who would you choose as the best leader? A young, energetic hot-shot Lieutenant right out of officer’s school? Or an old grizzled General with decades of military action?)

3. They have time to devote to the job. Listening to constituents is important for elected officials. Old people love conversation.

4. They’re not as likely to be swayed by political gamesmanship. Unlike most politicians, they’re more interested in the next generation than the next election.

5. They’re automatically term-limited. Term limits, a concept which is immensely popular with the public as a way to eliminate career politicians, will never be voted into law… by the career politicians. But, with Old People, the problem tends to solve itself. How long can they really stay in office?

I offer these benefits of electing Old People to office for a reason. As we head into this holiday season, you may very well find yourself conversing with someone who is thinking about running for office. If it’s an Old Person, by all means, encourage them. (Or maybe, you yourself are an Old Person thinking about moving “run for office” higher up your Things To Do list.)

Let me quickly add a disclaimer: There are no absolutes. There are plenty of young or middle-aged people who do a great job in office. Similarly, there are some Old People who, once they get in office, give Old People a bad name. ( I would also note that, while the Old-People-are-better theory applies well to politics, it does NOT apply to many other fields: pro athletes, stock car racers, rock musicians, etc.)

I hope you’ll join this new political movement: New Blood, Old People in 2010.

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