From the Trail, Part 3: Conflict of Perception

In a post-election discussion with my campaign manager, it became clear that there remains a large ‘conflict of perception’ in local politics.  The conflict exists between the perceptions of those in office or the “establishment” about themselves and the perceptions of the common man in regards to those elected officials.  Many in the establishment (with some exception) see themselves as the kingmakers of their particular kingdom, i.e. their city or county.  But those under their rule typically underestimate and/or under-appreciate the scope of their local leaders’ authority.

Constantly throughout the campaign, I visited with citizens who had no idea what a city council did or why it was important.  At the same time, the current establishment was busy telling folks how prestigious their job is, how difficult & complex it is & how no common person (like myself) could ever hold their position without the city government imploding.

The truth, as usual, can be found somewhere in the middle.

We should not over exaggerate the importance of city councils & quorum courts–rarely, if ever, do they make any life-and-death decisions.  We certainly should not tolerate elected officials who hold these perceptions of themselves.  But we should also strive to inform constituents about the importance of local government.  As we have clearly seen in Searcy over the last several years, the actions of local governments can easily affect every citizen’s daily life.

As a candidate for local office, this conflict of perception issues you three challenges.

1. Convince voters that the office you seek matters.

Voters must have a reason to show up & vote for you.  If they are not convinced that your potential position will affect them, they have no real use for you.  Arm yourself with the facts and be prepared to educate people.  If you can inspire people to believe that the actions of their local government are important, they will tune in to the issues.  But until then, it is just white noise.

2. Convince them you can do a better job.

While there are some voters who do not understand the impact of local governments, many do.  The rest you will need to convince.  Once that convincing is complete, you then must face the challenge of convincing voters that you can meet the demands of the job more adequately than your opponent while maintaining your humility & not over-inflating the importance of the position.  It is quite a political tight rope that few can walk, but if you walk it effectively, you will succeed.

3. Never think of yourself as more important than you are.

It is very easy to criticize those in office who hold an inflated view of themselves.  If you win your race, always take your job seriously & hold the utmost respect for the office.  But never forget where you came from & never think of yourself as more important than you really are.  Keeping this proper perspective is essential to good governance & effective public service.

Nicholas Horton is the Editor of The Arkansas Patriot & former Searcy City Council candidate.  In his spare time, he volunteers with various political campaigns & writes for The Liberty Bell.  Contact Nicholas at arkansaspatriot@gmail.com & follow him on Twitter.

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