Saturday, December 29, 2007

Delegate X and the Mayor of Snobville

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," with liberty and justice for the rich!

I'm watching the various political candidates strutting around Iowa. Trust me, readers. Not one of them cares about you or me. Not one. You can't even believe Oprah on this. Democrat, Republican, eenie meenie miney moe. They don't care about you. Go get a hanky, have a good cry about it, and move on.

My first job was working for a Republican politician in the Appalachian district where I grew up. From that day to this, he is the only politician I've ever respected. He wanted to be an elected official. So here's what he did. He knocked on every single door in his district -- Democrat, Republican, it didn't matter. And he said that if he was elected he would work for the people he was representing, he would vote their wishes even if he didn't agree. He was elected by a good-sized margin in a district where Democrats outnumbered Republicans 2-to-1.

And then he did what he said. When important votes were coming up before the Maryland General Assembly, he would send out poll sheets to see what his consitutents wanted him to do. Listen to this: People would actually call him with problems, like Medicaid problems, or even federal problems, and he would work to solve them. (I helped with that.)

He's still in the Maryland General Assembly 30 years later, currently serving as a state senator. How did he get elected state senator? He knocked on 70,000 doors. Absolutely true story. He is a very physically fit gentleman.

When I first began working for Delegate X, as he was in those bygone days, he gave me a stamp that said "For You from Delegate X" and an ink pad. then he showed me the 30,000 Maryland maps I had to mark with the stamp.

I said, "WTF?"

Not really. I was more polite in those days.

He said: "These maps were just sitting in the state office building for anyone to take. I think my constituents would probably like to have them, since they paid for them with their taxes."

I said: "How are you going to hand them out?"

He said: "Do you have a comfortable pair of shoes?"

Yes, we hand-delivered 30,000 road maps. I had a black-and-blue mark in the palm of my hand from stamping those suckers.

We celebrated the end of the ordeal by having a Popsickle in the city park.

Now you can say, "Well, Anne, you beautiful and witty lil' thing, you, Delegate X was a small-town Appalachian politician, able to mix and mingle with all his constituents. That can only happen on a local level."

I totally agree that your friendly neighborhood Congressman isn't going to shove a U.S. road map under your front door. But that's not my point. My point is that, other than this one politican I just described (and probably a few more like him in places like Far Rockaway or Randolph, Vermont), all politicians at all levels are in the game for one reason: personal gain.

To which you reply: "Oh Anne. You may be beautiful and witty, but you're so cynical! Why, I'm sure your local city councilpersons would bend over backwards for you."

Try this one:

I think I have mentioned that Snobville, my current place of residence, has a little museum from the Revolutionary War era that is owned by the state of New Jersey. There's a large oak tree outside the museum that is administered by the Borough of Snobville.

One day the museum curator saw me on the street, and knowing me to be a good (if odd) citizen, asked a favor. Would I speak to the mayor about having an oak limb trimmed that hung over the museum?

I looked up, and sure enough, there was a bloody gigantopithecus oak limb poised to come crashing down on the museum roof in the very next hurricane.

So I phoned the mayor. I emailed her. No response. Emailed again. No response. The threatening limb remained in its place, month after month.

And then one day the limb disappeared as if by magic.

A few days later I was walking downtown and ran into a very wealthy local lawyer who is also interested in the museum. I said to him, "Well, the borough finally trimmed that limb from over the roof of the museum!"

And he said: "Yes, I spoke to the mayor about it last week."

And I said: "I've been trying to speak to the mayor about it for six months! What the heck?"

And he said: "Well, I assume you didn't throw a re-election barbecue for the mayor and 200 of her closest friends, like I did."

If all politicians in the world were like Delegate X, we would have a sober and sane democracy. Alas, what we really have is an army of politicians like the Mayor of Snobville.

If you don't have the money to throw a fundraiser for the presidential candidate of your choice, forget it. He or she isn't gonna care a fig about you. Everything stays the same, only the names change.

I once asked Delegate X if he would ever run for Congress. He said no, that was too many doors to knock on, and he didn't want to take fundraising money. He said that the minute you start accepting money from people they somehow expect you to do their bidding in the legislative arena.

Gosh, ya think?



Tennessee Jed said...

Does seem impossible without spending more than one has to have a political "in". Nice story of how things worked and how they work these days.

sott'Eos said...

I see a disconnect between the fundraising, and "personal gain" (but maybe that's just me). The fundraiser was to go to pay for the campaign; that money doesn't end up in the pockets of the candidate. If they are running out of a desire to really serve their constituents, then the money for their campaign is in no way, "personal gain."

Personal gain comes as: salary, health insurance, junkets, bribes, paid speaking engagements after their out of office, bribes (oops, did I already mention that one?), etc. But many of these politicians are already wealthy. They could make more money and equally good benefits in industry.

I would say that more of them are motivated by a lust for power/importance, and lots of attention, than by "personal gain." This distinction doesn't much matter to us shlubs who have to foot the bill. It sucks that you can't get them to do their jobs, because you aren't a big donor.

yellowdog granny said...

too much money..too many hands out...and they just don't care..everyone wants theres...great post...