A tradition of public service
HAT if my rivals accuse me of being part of a political dynasty?” We have been sharing with our readers the questions that a number of young political aspirants joining the 2019 elections have been asking us. As mentioned in our recent columns, we have been passing over to them wisdom derived from our own experience and those of our elders who have mentored us in the art and science of public service.
Some of them are children of parents who have either been in politics in the past or may still be holding elective and appointive positions in government. They are “second” or “third” generation political aspirants, as some would describe them.
It appears one of their biggest worries is being labeled part of a “political dynasty.” They have shared with me some of the answers they believe might work just in case that issue is raised at a caucus, media interview or public debate during the campaign period.
We have not been spared that label. It puzzles us that some candidates feel they could win an election just by telling people not to vote for someone who has the same family name as other public servants occupying elective and appointive government positions. As mentioned in our previous columns, the preferred bases for choosing candidates for whom to vote on the part of today’s modern voters is the “Power of the Promise.” The “Promise” is the hope and expectation on the part of voters inspired by two things: The Person (of the candidate) and his or her Performance Track Record.
My usual suggestion to political aspirants against whom the label “political dynasty” is being hurled is this: Ignore.
The “ignore” strategy works particularly well in situations where the family from which an aspirant comes have done their jobs well, have helped transform communities, and have given their constituents better lives and greater hope.
We realized, however, that “ignore” is difficult to do for a millennial. They have that special need to “answer” an accusation; to set the record straight; to demolish an argument. So, we offered this formula. When the “political dynasty” bogeyman is raised by a political opponent, we propose the “Rephrase and Embrace” approach. Here is how it works. Suppose the young political aspirant is asked at a public debate: “Your opponent says you are part of a political dynasty that has stayed too long in public office. What do you have to say about that?”
Now, rephrase and embrace. Here is how it is done. First, “rephrase” the question: “My opponent probably means that I come from a family whose members have dedicated themselves to the service of our community. I believe that what my opponent is saying is that I come from a family whose tradition of community involvement has been recognized by our people. I believe that my opponent is having a hard time understanding why our people have been reciprocating my giving their vote for dedicated public servants who happen to be part of our family.” Now, “embrace”: “So, yes, I come from a family – or a clan – with a strong tradition of public service. As long as that tradition is recognized by the people of our community, I would like my opponent to know that I intend to live up to that time-honored tradition.”
We respect the ongoing discussion in certain quarters regarding so-called “political dynasties.” Our view is that the term has to be defined more clearly and sharply. It should also not be used to deprive voters of the power of choice. One’s family name and family affinity is not a crime. It should not curtail one’s right to present oneself to the electorate and ask to be entrusted with an elective position.
It is good to examine the fact that there are certain personalities who do not belong to any political plan who, when elected into office, failed to pass the test of “Person” and “Performance Track Record.”
To say that political families or political clans can manipulate elections in the areas where they are present is, again, a misunderstanding of current realities. Our voters are too wise to allow themselves to be manipulated or controlled. They have greater access to information, thanks to technology. They will make decisions based on the vast amount of information available to them today.
We do not mean to provide an excuse for personalities identified with political families who may have abused the perks and power of the office to which they were elected.
What we hope to point out is this – that the ultimate decision as to who should serve them must be left in the hands of the voter.
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