THE VIEW FROM RIZAL
“How does it feel to win an election?”
That was the question a number of friends were asking me this past week. They seem to have been watching the conduct of the presidential elections in the United States. They must have been contaminated by the excitement of that event and wanted to know how it feels to emerge with more votes that one’s opponent in the aftermath of an election.
Last week, American voters came out in record numbers to elect the next United States president. Amid controversies, accusations of irregularities, counter-accusations, and threats of legal suits, they made sure that the democratic process of selecting their country’s highest official – supposed to be the most powerful person on earth – worked to their best interest.
Before I share my answer to the questions asked me last week, I would like to first extend my congratulations to the American people for ensuring the triumph of democracy in their country during this time when the world is facing a deadly pandemic.
American media have described the 2020 US polls as “historic” and “unprecedented” in terms of voter turnout. It also appears to have been one of the most divisive and, at times, heated in recent US elections. As we go to press, no winner had been declared, and the legal team of the incumbent White House occupant has vowed to go to court to question the results of voting in a number of states.
Now, back to my friends’ question: How does it feel to win an election?
Here’s a give-it-to-you-straight answer to that question.
After a candidate is declared a winner, he enters a state of ecstatic joy.
That would last for, maybe, an hour.
Then, reality hits home. The ecstatic joy vanishes and is replaced by fatigue, anxiety, and a feeling of being overwhelmed by the magnitude of the job and the responsibility that lies ahead.
There’s a tendency among those who have not had the experience of occupying an elective post to romanticize the idea of “political power.”
That idea might seem to them as the “ability to control others” or to “do and get whatever I want.”
That idea is farthest from the truth.
The fact is an elective official’s “power” is oftentimes too little, too small, too limited, compared to what he or she is expected to be able to do for his or her constituents.
The same is true as far as financial resources are concerned. The budget of a local government is never enough to meet the requirements of development and disaster response.
Here’s another fact: Particularly at the local government level, constituents do collect on candidates’ promises. They tend to remember what candidates’ have said the campaign trail, particularly the list of items that are supposed to give them better lives.
The problem is there are people who usually want to collect more than they have been promised. In many instances, some of the constituents of local officials comprise what is called “the unpleasable sector.” Their expectations and demands keep rising. At some point, the expectations and demands can no longer be met by the poor, hapless local officials.
The power and resources available to the elected official just are not enough.
The unpleasable ones eventually become dedicated bashers.
The fact is, campaigning for an elective position is not an act of asking the people to give you power.
It is asking them for the privilege to be the chief community servant.
As “servant,” the local community leader is expected to put himself or herself last.
It is always the interest of the community first.
This may sound like a fancy political concept.
Not at all. When one wins an election, that really is the job waiting for him.
The people will come first. Rest, family, me-time, hobbies and passion – all these will have to take a backseat as long as the election winner is in office. The electorate owns him.
The election winner cannot blame them for the burden that is put on his shoulders.
After all, he asked for the job.
Is there a reward?
There is no financial reward, unless the election winner had prior motives of plundering his community coffers.
There are not too many “thank you” to expect from constituents. Even when the elected official does well, in the mind of constituents, the excellent performance is just “part of the job”.
The reward comes from within the chief community servant. It is the understanding and realization that, despite the hardship and challenges, one is able to help transform a community and the lives of the people who are part of it.
There is a joke which goes, “If you hate someone, tell that person to run for public office.”
I would add: “And make sure that person wins.”
Don’t get me wrong. The fact remains that the opportunity given to an elections winner to serve others is reward enough.
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