Hump Day: Some sage advice for the newly elected (and the non-elected too)

Hump DayHump Day
By Brian Cormier
Wednesday, May 16, 2012
Moncton Times & Transcript
Editorial section

On Monday, New Brunswickers elected new municipal councillors, members of regional health authorities and district education councils. These are important elected positions that help run the democratic process. The following is several million dollars’ worth of professional advice and wisdom to those who won and even to those who lost on Monday. Perhaps even a billion dollars’ worth.

First, to the winners: Be gracious in your victory. You may have been the candidate, true, but there are is likely an entire slew of volunteers who helped get you there. Thank each and every one of them personally for the time and expertise and funding they provided to your campaign. Call them. Send a card. Have a party.

With that said, remember that it is the people who elected you, not just a small group of volunteers and friends. There is no way that anyone can get elected without actual voters marking actual ballots. Ideas, debates and door-todoor campaigning mean nothing unless voters choose you. If you act like you’re accountable only to a small group of personal friends and advisers, your tenure will be a short one.

Be gracious in your victory. If at all possible, reach out to your rivals. They’ve actually put their name on a ballot – something that not everyone has the commitment to do. Ask them to sit on committees. Consult them on appropriate issues. Bring them into the fold. Make them fans.

Take your responsibilities seriously. Return telephone calls. Consult. Inform. Attend your meetings. That sounds a bit ridiculous to even mention, but there have been instances when elected officials have shirked these responsibilities. Meetings are where decisions are made. Your constituents deserve to have you there to vote to defend their interests, especially at budget time.

With that said, being gracious has its limits. The people elected you and rejected your opponents.

Don’t feel obligated to cater to fringe candidates or those who played dirty tricks during the campaign. Honest and vigorous debate and campaigning are perfectly acceptable. Campaigns that disintegrate into name-calling and bogus allegations, however, are not acceptable and are affront to our democracy.

To those who did not win: Be gracious in your loss. Don’t blame others. Take full responsibility. It’s not the fault of those who took care of your communications or the people who put up your signs. It’s not the fault of the voters who were just too dumb not to vote for your brilliant ideas. You put forward an agenda and the voters decided to go elsewhere. Don’t take it personally. Easier said than done, I know.

And, very importantly, thank each and every one of the people who helped on your campaign. They gave generously of their time, expertise and funding to your campaign. They are disappointed, too.

Also, very important: Don’t turn into a constant critic and whiner, running to the media with every gripe and complaint you can think of for the next four years. You were not elected. Deal with it. Handle it. Build a bridge. Pull up your big girl (or boy) panties, give the elastic waistband a good snap (or two) and suck it up like an adult.

To the volunteers on the losing campaigns: Don’t be bitter. You obviously worked hard for someone you believed in. That’s a very good thing for democracy. Just because your candidate didn’t win, don’t stop getting involved in the political process. It’s a wonderful thing to work on a campaign. The disappointment of losing is utterly horrible, though. Been there. Done that. Remember: Everything goes in waves. This election’s losing candidate may very well be next election’s mayor or city councillor.

To those who voted: Congratulations! You have honoured all those who died in wars in order for us to keep this democratic right. You took your democratic responsibility seriously. Feel free to whine and complain. More importantly, feel free to offer your ideas and suggestions.

To those who chose not to vote because they couldn’t be bothered: Unless you were ill, housebound or in the middle of an unexpected crisis, you have no reason not to have voted. If you didn’t vote, you have abdicated your democratic duty. For the next four years, don’t say a word. Zero. Zilch. You gave up your right to complain when you chose not to vote. And don’t give me any cynical views that all politicians are crooks, etc. It’s simply not true.

I never understood not voting – at least not for myself. I understand being frustrated, of course. Everyone gets frustrated with the political process at some point. But to paint everyone as ‘the same’? To just give up? I don’t get it. Personally, I think voting should be mandatory. The consequences for not voting, though? Nothing.

Let me explain. Perhaps instead of punishing non-voters, we should provide voters with a $50 tax credit or some other form of benefit – perhaps even a discount when renewing your driver’s licence or on your property taxes. If you voted, you can use the tax credit or get the discount. If not, you can’t. Some sort of modest monetary incentive would get more people to vote, I think.

To everyone who took part in this year’s elections either by being a candidate, voter, paid worker or volunteer, you’re to be commended!

As a citizen, I appreciate your dedication and commitment to our democracy. Thank you!

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