Lois Ann Dort

Sympathy for the devil on the campaign trail

Chronicle Herald  May 17, 2017

We’re well into the election cycle and the mud has started to fly. Candidates and party leaders are under scrutiny and suffer from attacks not only on their politics but also on their personalities.

Hating on politicians seems to be a popular sport with very few ground rules. These objects of ridicule become somewhat less than human to their attackers. They become cardboard cut-outs at photo ops with sound bites instead of flesh and blood.

This may in large part be due to the social media cycle which needs to be fed 24/7 in order to keep our wandering attention but the electorate should pause for a minute and pity the poor politician.

Of course there are several obstacles to achieving this point of view, the first being that becoming a politician is a choice, one that many people believe is made from a desire for power. The second, is that many people don’t understand what being a politician actually entails.

As a journalist, I have perhaps, a better handle than most people outside of the political maelstrom, about what it takes to be on the job as an elected representative in our province. The meetings are endless, decisions never win unanimous approval from the electorate and criticism is constant.

The job description for politicians should include the caveat that you will face hecklers on a regular basis and people may hate you without ever having met you. It’s surprising that anyone signs up for the job given those working conditions, but many do and no matter the party stripe, they all deserve some gratitude for taking on this work.

Of course there is always a grain of truth in any stereotype, including that of the wily politician. I have seen politicians who get too big for their britches, who grease palms and kiss too many babies to seem sincere. I have also seen politicians whose skin was not thick enough to deal with the everyday criticism directed at them by opposing politicians and voters. I have seen service-minded people become mean spirited under such strain. Politics can change a person; the stress, the lack of sleep– the road to hell and a seat in the provincial assembly is often paved with good intentions.

Several weeks ago my kids met the Premier on a campaign stop in Guysborough. They got to board the campaign bus and thought it was the height of luxury. I made clear to them that a month living on the road in a tin can was really no treat.

After we left the bus and I had finished my interview the kids said, “He seems nice.”  They said this with some astonishment as they had expected to meet a wicked man. They’re in elementary school, and after the Teacher’s Union strike there has been a heavy feeling of animosity surrounding mention of the Premier in the context of education in most media they have consumed. I explained that the policy isn’t the person. It’s something we could all do well to remember.

 I’m not a fan or follower of any political party or politician but I see them all as they are; people trying to make a difference. Sometimes we don’t agree with the direction but the intent to make things better is there. I encourage everyone to vote, to get involved in the democratic process. Our politicians are making personal sacrifices to make sure we continue to live in a free and fair democracy. When I vote I respect every name on the ballot not just the one I mark with an X– because without them, where would we be.

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