I have political fever: We’re in full election mode at the moment and the more I experience of this mobile carnival, the more I have come to the realisation that I need to get involved in the next round of council elections. For years people have been egging me on to consider running, sometimes in jest but mostly due to my strong opinions on what is wrong with the current blend of politics.
Politicians these days just don’t put in the effort anymore. They seem to think that they’ll always have a certain percentage of the votes and they’re happy with this. Some don’t even bother canvassing for themselves but send armies of minions to do their bidding. In turn these canvassers don’t appear to believe in their undertaking and become nothing more than political leaflet distributors. They rarely if ever knock at a door, it’s really more of a drive-by canvassing event. This general election will see some folk elected as TDs and maybe it’s just me but if I was going for a job interview worth EUR 100,000 then I’d put in a little work and get to know the company before blankly proclaiming that I should have the position. Why do our politicians think differently?
Well, party politics and sheepish Irish voters have a lot to do with it. Certain areas are strongholds for certain parties and sure it’s just a matter of allowing a candidate to run and the people will pick them because of the party badge – no thought required! Ask yourself a question, if all politicians were independent who would you vote for? How would you pick your preferences? Are you just a party voter or has your first choice actually done something for your area? Suddenly voting becomes a lot more difficult for so many people. The blank faces of anonymous canvassers should be replaced with the face of the candidates running for election. Talking to and representing the people is what politics is supposed to be all about. Sadly many politicians think that they are above this and don’t even need to try other than making sure we see their faces on posters 3 weeks prior to an election.
In Waterford, our ex-Mayor Seamus Ryan is keeping an eye on things from Labour’s perspective in his blog A view from the Left. Seamus is maintaining this blog despite not running for election and his fellow Labour candidate Brian O’Shea doesn’t appear to have any presence at all. This is a prime example of electoral candidates not wanting to invest the time and effort into reaching the community. I picked the Labour party because Seamus’ blog is a good read and is worthy of a link, not because Labour is unique in ignoring the community, the same is true of pretty much all the parties. So far this campaign, I have had leaflets for every candidate dropped into my letterbox, once I had a knock on the door from a candidate’s wife and not once has a real candidate shown up to ask for my vote. That is exactly why none of them will get my vote; what’s the point if they aren’t interested in me anyway?
First of all I’m glad to hear that you might get involved rather than just cursing them all.
I was a minion this evening and a couple of things come to mind – it is almost impossible to meet every constituent and we are electing people to decide national policies based on local issues. Should our best policy makers and negotiators be fired because the didn’t meet you or show an interest in you?
I can assure you that the candidates I know are out every single day of the week including Sunday. The logistics of visiting every house in 3/4 weeks are incredible. Last time, Waterford had an electorate of 73,725, so that would be 2,633 people per day or 219 people per hour (12 hours work) or about 17 seconds per person if you tried.
That is why politicians have to use their time wisely and get their party, family and friends to help out. They can meet the people who have issues to raise and the candidate can call back personally or get started on fixing the problem
Parties are not as cushy as you paint them either – there are nearly always factions within the party and hotly contested selection conventions and intervention from the leadership, not to mention competition for votes and resources.
And while blogging is growing very fast, it is still minuscule compared with old media and for the moment, time is better invested in meeting people personally, attending local meetings etc imho. Even several of the blogs I have followed died off after a while for one reason or another.
I’d recommend going on a canvass with a candidate to see what it is really like.
Thanks for the comment. Indeed I very much fear becoming one of those couch critics rather than getting involved hence my new-found urge to get into it.
While I fully agree with your math, my point were probably too clouded to get across my real feelings on the subject. I know that trying to meet everyone in 3/4 weeks is not possible but it’s the several years before the election when they are serving and being paid by the voters that I would like to at least meet these folk once. It takes time but I believe that it’s part of the job, you can’t represent people if you don’t know what they want. If walking about takes too much time and effort then a public audience would at least be a stepping stone to asking public opinion.
Perhaps I was rather glib on the “just a matter of allowing a candidate to run” issue. For sure there are bound to be internal battles and not quite the bed of roses. But from the point of view of maintaining a party seat in a constituency voters will frequently not care what the candidate looks like if they have a certain badge.
I know it’s unrealistic to expect all politicians to start blogging but perhaps one per party, per constituency would be a form of outreach to the modern community and especially younger voters?
As for me going on a canvas with any current candidate. God help them! 🙂 I’d probably end up asking more questions than those that we called to. Good suggestion though, how does one go about getting involved without having an affiliation with a candidate?
oh yeah, you need to do your groundwork and it’s a pleasure to go to an area where the candidate has achieved things.
To go out on a canvass, you really need to know who you want to canvass for first. There is no formal process, so ideally, you might know the man himself or one of the other canvassers. If not, contact him or his office by phone or some locally active Labour party member.
Thanks Joe. I’ll have to do a bit of snooping around now, although possibly too late for this election, especially if they do a blog search on me. 🙂 Although by the time the next local election comes about I might be canvassing for myself. 🙂 Cheers for the feedback!
Jonathan, thanks for the mention. An interesting post. It is a pity that very few if any of the candidates in Waterford are publishing their own Blog at the moment. You also raise an interesting point about Independents. I am of the opinion that there are few if any true independents. Here in Waterford all the Independents are either former party members or are closely linked with political parties. Not that there is anything wrong with that of course – Seamus
Thanks for the comment Seamus. It is a pity that few of the candidates are publishing a blog at the moment. As I was saying to Joe in an earlier comment it’s probably unrealistic to hope that all candidates would but if there was an aggregate blog for each party and maybe a post or two by each candidate then it would probably be just as good, especially for the younger voters.
I know what you mean about the independents situation. I’ve seen the allegiances couple and decouple when necessary. 🙂 It’s shaping up to be a good election though. Thanks for stopping by.