It happened again just last week. I was talking with a marketing rep, an obviously intelligent, informed guy, and in the middle of our conversation I suggested he might want to talk to one of our city councillors about a question he had. Whoa - did that push a button. He squared his shoulders, pulled himself erect and, face flushed red, fairly shouted at me that he would never talk to a politician. I hate politicians, he blurted, they're all crooks!
But you're talking to one, I thought, or at least a wannabe. And I'm not a crook.
How is it that people draw a line in the sand, with politicians suspected of all things nefarious, hypocritical and sociopathic on one side and all decent, ordinary, honest, folks on the other? How did we move from regarding politics as the art and science of government (Oxford University Press, 1970) to politics as activities aimed at improving status or position that are devious or divisive (Oxford American, 2006)?
I wouldn't even pretend to answer those questions, but I want to put them out there as a backdrop for what follows: a glimpse behind the political curtains from someone who's been there - one ordinary person with no big money or political machine, just some ideas and determination behind her.
I've run for city council twice; the first time, an unknown long-shot who came up along the rails and, with a couple of thousand votes in my pocket, just missed a seat by 40-some votes. The second go I was supposed to be a shoo-in, ran a more considered campaign, but finished way back in the middle of the pack. It's all in the hands of the voters, as one veteran candidate pointed out.
I've also been courted twice, in two different elections by two different political parties, to be a provincial candidate. Both requests were surprising - and flattering - and straightforward. No backroom deals at midnight, no men in dark suits in limos. The ask was in the form of pedestrian emails, followed by phone calls and brief courtships with me declining for various reasons, primarily timing and money.
This isn't meant to be a true confession or some typical, iconic story. But with our provincial election at hand with one of the most important referendum questions on the ballot that we British Columbians will see in our lifetimes - the option for BC-STV that is meant to increase everyone's political engagement - I want to deconstruct some of the mysticism (or is it alienation?) about politics, and put you not necessarily in the driver's seat unless, of course, you want to be, but at least in the mindset that you or your sister or your best friend could be or should be a politician. The opportunity is yours for the taking.