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Dearest Politicians…

Hi, it’s me: your constituent. What I’m about to write is in no way ground-breaking, but it does seem necessary.

You’re focusing on the wrong thing.

You’re focusing on winning elections. Stop that.

It seems counterintuitive, I know. You only have a job if you win an election. So naturally, you want to do that. You raise tons of money to pay for signs and commercials and research to smear your opponent, and you try to win elections. But why?

Winning elections was never meant to be the sole focus of a public servant.  The role of any elected official in a representative democracy is to govern in a way that will most benefit the people who elected you. To “represent” them, you might say.

We have enough contests that exist for the sole purpose of crowning a winner: Sports, Competitive Eating, fantasy football, The Bachelor. All of these things are fun (to someone), but if Joey Chestnut loses by a single hot dog, no one dies (probably). If we elect a despot whose primary focus is “MOAR WINNING”, perhaps the next missile crisis doesn’t turn out quite so non-genocidal. When congress passes a bill that will literally kill your constituents, and you respond by breaking into song because this is going to translate to more winning …surely you can see why this is a problem.

When you condemn just about everything about a candidate, but eventually endorse and vote for him anyway, because your team needs to win …problem.

You see, when everything in your life becomes about winning, you eventually lose the ability to focus on anything else. Everything becomes an angle, something that can be leveraged for another win. You’ll find out what is important to your constituents (you’re getting warmer) and make promises (you’re so close!) to get votes (colder, colder) and then spend your time in office making every decision with “gotta get re-elected” in mind (freezing cold, turn around).

Here’s the crazy part: if you stop trying so hard to win at all costs, and start focusing on governing in a way that genuinely helps the people you represent… if you fight *for* them, not *against* them… if you direct that competitive nature towards “how good can we make it around here?” instead of “how bad can we make it for the competition / immigrants / people I disagree with?” it seems far more likely to me that they’ll want to keep you in office.

You make the world a better place, AND you keep your job. That sounds like a win/win to me.

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