Recently someone told me they hoped that someday I would run for elected office, either municipally or provincially.
Wait, don’t call your realtor yet. Being a candidate is not high up on my list of things to do.
Besides, if I did run, I’d have to be honest and transparent. I’d have to tell perfect strangers that in the past I have been challenged by depression and addictions, and that as a youth I was once charged for possession of marijuana (but not convicted). I’d need to own the fact I curse on social media, and often use the platform to criticize governments and political parties (all of them), perhaps even the one I was running with.
Oh, and I would not be surprised if I have Tweeted or posted something(s) on Facebook that I regret and given the choice, would not post again.
Actually, now that I’ve told you all that… it really wasn’t that hard to do.
Because I know I’d also tell you that thanks to fabulous healthcare providers and support, the depression and addictions are, blessedly, a tiny speck in my rearview mirror. I don’t regret they happened, though, because dealing with them taught me so many lessons I’m grateful for, and gave me insights into who I am, and what’s important to me.
I’m thankful for the teenaged possession incident, because it put the fear of jail into me, making that my first and last brush with the law.
I can’t take back any of the social media cursing, literal or figurative, though I once had a mentor chastise me for it, which definitely increased my restraint.
As for the social media posts, I’d definitely go back and review mine, and if I found something inappropriate, I’d remove it, in order that it not offend anyone in future. However, given that the internet is forever, if I was still confronted with something I’d wrote, I’d do one of two things: 1) tell you I regret it, it was wrongheaded and apologize unconditionally; or, 2) that I don’t regret it, and why.
Thankfully I don’t have any criminal convictions or DUIs, only because I’m a far-from-perfect someone, who, by luck or fate, just didn’t get caught. I’m guessing you might be someone like that too. If not, you know someone who is, whether they admit it or not.
However, if I did have the misfortunate of being so incredibly stupid as to drink and drive, and be charged and convicted for it, I’d disclose that too.
Why would I spill all this dirty laundry about myself?
Because I’d want to do the opposite of hiding my past indiscretions – not because I’m some kind of hero, but because from a cold public relations and/or politically strategic perspective, it’s best to be in control of your own story.
In fact, disclosure in political (and often corporate or institutional) arenas is primarily self-serving, as there’s a good chance doing so first will trump the information being used against you down the road.
Plus, there’s the added bonus of not just the perception of transparency, but actually getting to be transparent… authentic. Voters, consumers – people – crave authenticity, and when they get it, they consume it ravenously.
Let’s be clear, though, about to who you’re really hiding your real or perceived past indiscretions: your political opposition.
If you’re hiding something from thirty years ago, it’s not necessarily because you’re concerned about the electorate judging you – it’s more likely because you fear your opposition will use it to unfairly smear your character. Just because they can.
In other words, you don’t have to change your past – politics has to change its future.
If you have made mistakes – including convicted DUIs – in your past, but have since turned your life around, you can do whatever you want with it. You should definitely run for, and if the electorate sees you as a good representative, be elected to, political office.
The candidate’s problem begins and ends with the perception of hiding: that if it didn’t matter, one wouldn’t be hiding it. If it didn’t matter, it wouldn’t be something that requires disclosure to party brass upon nomination. If it requires internal party disclosure, and is then made public by someone else, the perception is that both party and candidate were hiding it. And we’re back at square one.
Wouldn’t it be fantastic if Saskatchewan politics changed, for good? If a candidate, with all of his or her glorious, character-building flaws, could actually be themselves, without that fear of personal, often painful (because believe it or not, politicians are people too), attack?
Sure, disclosure means opening up oneself to voters for further judgment, but you’d be amazed how forgiving people are when they sense you’re not lying to them.
With apologies to the (many) non-Liberals amongst you, “sunny ways” may have seemed naive, but in the end, look how well it worked for Justin Trudeau. Was no one in Saskatchewan’s back rooms paying attention? Apparently not. That’s just one reason why, in part, I’m shocked by how ugly 2016 #skvotes has gotten, and how fast.