On the Road to Election Day, Part VI: Prepare to be HATED

BlogHer Original Post

What happens when you love the idea of listening to people's complaints and working with others to solve them, but you don't get to interview for that job? Instead, you have to convince several thousand people that they should trust that you will listen to them and have a good enough brain to come up with and implement solutions.  And then, that persuasion effort involves walking up to strangers, extending your hand and possibly being told that you are hated just because you want to work in government.

Would you still go after that job?

I've talked to many, many people about what I'm doing - and about what I need to do and not do - if I want the "job" of city council.  [I put the word "job" in quotations marks because it is a job, but it's an elected office.  That's really an unique kind of a job because your salary and your approval and your existence in that "job" comes from taxpayers - completely. I've written before about how daunting certain aspects of running for office can be, but honestly - knowing that your approval is going to be, for the most, completely subjective, even when the individual decising on your survival is trying to stick to what might be considered objective standards (and even those are hard to define - even fiscally responsive doesn't mean the same thing to everyone these days) is perhaps the most daunting angle of all.]

And all of them agree: there are people out there who simply and without question are going to hate you.

Say what?

HATE YOU. [I don't even want to think about the gender difference implications of why there might be more men willing to be hated than women if this is in fact true - and I do believe it is, as the following story illustrates.]

Still think you're interested in trying to get this "job" called elected office?   Try this story on for size:

I went to bed one evening about three weeks ago exhausted after working on multiple fronts all day related to home, family and campaign.  I've been getting up early every morning this summer to beat the noise that comes when the tradesmen who are working on our home renovation projects arrive and get to work and the following day was no exception.  I showered, made coffee and headed to my computer to clear out blog-related stuff when, what do I find but an online effort in opposition to my candidacy.  Ugh - total, complete Ugh.  I mean, I have been blogging politics for more than four years. I've gotten every kind of comment imaginable, but I live in a town of less than 6000 residents, 70% of whom are over the age of 45.  Based on my research, there's just not going to be many residents following the city council race, online or off.

But me - I'm totally fixated on the fact that anyone - let alone someone who doesn't live in my town - would take the time to do that kind of thing.

After I resolve to ignore it all, I head out to meet a friend for coffee. Not just any friend, but a woman I know who is running for her umpteenth term on her town's city council.  We get coffee, sit down, and she says, "So, how you doing?"

"To tell you the truth? I'm rattled this morning."

And I give her the details.

Her reaction? 

"Jill, there are some people who are going to hate you.  HATE YOU.  And not for any reason other than because you work for the government."  

My friend proceeds to tell me about a neighbor she had who would run into her house every single time my friend would get home or walk outside from her house.  My friend said that this neighbor's shunning of her made her cry and feel doubt, many many times.  She would ask the woman's son about it and he'd say that that's just the way his mom was.  She tried to ask the neighbor but she would never respond with anything that made sense, according to my friend.

And, then, when the woman died (she was an elderly woman according to my friend), my friend admitted: she was relieved because she'd felt so much stress from not being able to figure out this one neighbor.

Now, I've known this woman for several years and she's not an alarmist or melodramatic.  She's very grounded, she's a good parent, she's involved in the community and obviously most of her community likes her because she's served them so many times in their government.  And yet even for all that, this one resident who lived next to her - and wouldn't engage with her - totally unsettled her.

To say that this story gave me perspective would be an understatement but every time I tell it to other people who have been in local politics and politics in general? They nod their heads in agreement: people are going to HATE YOU.

Wow - so what kind of person does that make those who seek elected office? 

Ha.  That's a question to be answered in the comments...or maybe the next edition of On the Road to Election Day - which is exactly ten weeks from today here in Ohio!

More resources:

CampusProgress.org: So You Want to Run for Office? by Alisha Thomas Morgan, Georgia State Representative

Linked to from the blog, ChangeServant: So, You Want to Run for Office? Five Questions Every Woman Must Answer Before She Decides to Run by Claire Guthrie Gastañaga

Jen Nedeau on Change.org: You, yes you - it's time to run for elected office!

And a story about a woman who won this evening in a special election for the state senate in Kentucky, a woman who was a coal miner from the age of 18-25 before going to college and getting a law degree and running for office: Robin Webb

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