John R. Smith: Politicians Want Us to Like, Love, and Adore Them
Politicians rarely come clean if you ask them why they’re running. They usually throw some verbal pablum at you or a carefully contrived soundbite.
Almost no politician admits it, but a primary reason they seek office is psychological: they want to be liked. In some cases, they want to be adored. They want validation and power. In all cases, they want to exert personal influence. In many cases, for the wrong reasons, such influence is suspect.
Politicians will recite altruistic grounds for running. But one reason you won’t hear is their need for attention. In some troublesome way, running and winning office certifies their own self-importance. In the minds of some, they see winning as an affirmation of their self-worth. These darker reasons are why we see big egos and extreme arrogance in some politicians because political power often attracts the wrong kind of human.
The “need to please” is tied up in all this, because the flawed nature of some humans ignites an overwhelming need in them to please others so they will be loved in return.
This peculiarity answers why too many politicians want to give away the store when they gain power. Ladling out other people’s money is how they reward those supporters who give them stature; it cements their love and future backing and fulfills the politician’s need to be accepted.
But politicians fail to see that doling out tax money and favors to remain popular is not the same as governing. Politicians cannot treat taxpayer money as a personal piggy bank to buy their next election and seal the adoration of constituents.
Two shopworn phrases in politics are “I want to give back to the community” and “It’s for the children.” Who knows, maybe the pols who say these high-falutin’ things mean it but spare us the burden of clichés. My 50+ years in politics compels my conclusion that there are darker, psychological reasons why most people covet office:
- They seek fame and power;
- They do it to impose their worldview on others;
- Acceptance by voters is seen as an affirmation of self-worth.
Think I’m being too cynical? Attend a few city or county commission meetings or legislative sessions. Watch the long lines of people at budget time, parading before elected officials with their hands out. You will be struck with the truth of what’s happening here: you will see why politicians get heady with the power to give away money. They cave in to give loud people what they want rather than protect the largely absent and faceless taxpayer. You will see first-hand how the character of the politician is tested. They are forced to choose who is more important: the people they’re taking money from or the people they’re giving it to.
A powerful impetus behind the Tea Party movement was disgust with Rs and Ds, who place their interests above the taxpayer. But if you are a politician who wants a career in it, pay close attention to this: an incumbent leaves a track record of votes versus promises made on the campaign trail. These days, people are really watching. Your actions, not your words, tell us who you are.
Additional stories you may want to read:
- John R. Smith: “No Labels” Party Might Offer Presidential Candidate in 2024 - September 27, 2023
- John R. Smith: The Decline and Fall of the Palm Beach Post - August 17, 2023
- John R. Smith: CNBC Ranks Florida #1 in ‘America’s Top States for Business’ - July 27, 2023