Contrary to the snap judgment of some, many politicians are not automatons, indentured to major contributors or mindless partisans. Called upon to contemplate an infinite range of issues, a relentless clock, and an unquenchable thirst for instant response on the part of the public – and the media – elected officials are in a constant learning mode. Their sources of information range from scholarly research, to government data, to corporate PR, to the earnest opinions of voters whose ideas are influenced by a span of human and recorded resources.
Today’s New York Times carries a revealing saga of one elected official’s journey through the information maze. ( http://www.nytimes.com/2014/01/05/us/on-hawaii-a-lonely-quest-for-facts-about-gmos.html) In this thoughtful piece by Amy Harmon, the issue facing the newly elected member of the Kona, Hawaii, City Council, Greggor Ilagan, is the impact of GMOs on the papaya crop.
Though the topic may not be of immediate concern to folks coping with subzero temps, that lack of emotional involvement sets in relief the narrative of the elected official’s struggle. The scenario is transferrable and scalable to myriad choices with which honest decision-makers grapple every day.
As members of U.S. Congress return to their offices and lives on Capitol Hill, it’s worth thinking for a moment that these men and women are not just escaping the cold. They are people who face every day a maze of complicated issues, a barrage of vested interests, information overload – and a roll call vote for which they are accountable to their constituents – and to themselves.
The NYT article is just one reminder that the democratic process, at its very core, is a human drama with a speaking role for every member of the body politic.