I Like Politicians Up Close, Not So Much From a Distance

Image Credit: Brandt Luke Zorn

This may seem like a strange topic for a blog dealing with difficult seasons of life.  But it’s my contribution to a groupwrite project called “What I learned from…government.” And, I suspect that for some, this election season and what follows will be a difficult season, and that some of you may find yourselves in grief.  But that’s not the topic today.

During a season of my life when I was involved as a member, director, and eventually chairman of the Greater Southwest Houston Chamber of Commerce, I met and got to know a number of politicians.  They included U.S. congressmen, state representatives and senators, members of city councils, and several mayors.  I also had the opportunity to meet lots of candidates who didn’t win as well.  Those of you from this area would recognize the names, but they’re really not important.

What I learned was that I truly liked these people, and frequently admired them.  They were real. Often they would hang around after the meetings and just visit with folks.  They’d talk issues if you wanted, but were just as happy to talk about kids and activities and what you were doing.  Often it seemed that although they were there in an “official” capacity, that they enjoyed the opportunity to just be part of the group.

Since the chamber would sometimes work in partnership with them on a project benefitting our area, I also got to see some of the stuff that makes political life difficult.  I saw the personal attacks they were targets of, the meanness that people are capable of.  No attempt to do something good ever seems to happen without some people rising up to attack not only the idea, but anyone involved in trying to make it happen.  I saw the toll that takes, and it made me sad.  Because I learned to like these folks both for who they were and what they were trying to do.

I also learned that I liked them independent of what their party or political leanings were, at least from up close when I could see them as people.

Interestingly, over the years some of these same people have run for statewide office.  It happened after my chamber years were over,  so I wasn’t bumping into them at functions.  My contact was limited to the sound bites and the commercials and the campaign rhetoric.  And I found that I didn’t like some of the people very much that I had liked before.  In fact, I don’t like that part of any politician.  I think it’s because of the partisanship that’s required these days to be a candidate, and the partisanship that engenders in followers.

I miss feeling good about politicians because I miss getting to see them as real people.  But I’m trying to remember that they are real people trying to do something good in what has become a difficult environment.

  1. I’d say this was a very timely message coming at a very important time, Jim. I have to admit at first I was a little taken aback by your title, but after reading it, I definitely see your point.

    I think too often the political machinery turns what would otherwise be very likable people into caricatures, don’t you? I’m glad you had the chance to get to know some of them, though. At least you have that.

    Hey, thanks for participating in this month’s WILF, Jim! Hope you join us every month!

    Cheers, and a tip o’ the hat to ya!

    Robert

  2. Ellen Weber says:

    Jim, thanks for the reminder to stay balanced and stay real. We certainly see that so far in Obama – and hopefully it gets even better! Great post!

  3. Jim, politicians often show care for their constituents when they get close to the people as you show here. Wish there was even more of this once elections are over.

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