Inside Politics: Be a statesman, not a politician | Columnists
I knocked on nearly 30,000 doors and spoke with thousands of people from all political backgrounds in my district. This experience taught me that good ideas and good people come from all directions. It also helps me define the difference between a politician and a statesman.
A politician tends to represent only the people who vote for him. A statesman strives to represent everyone in his constituency, whether he voted for them or not. It doesn’t mean that you agree with everyone on every issue all the time. It means that you respect those good ideas – no matter where they come from – by incorporating them into the work you do.
It is much easier to be a politician than a statesman:
- It is much easier to inflame emotions with false and misleading messages to win votes.
- It’s much easier to make decisions based on what you want to believe to be true, instead of doing your due diligence to find out what’s true.
- It’s much easier to tell voters what they want to hear instead of what they need to hear.
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A statesman, however, strives to bring people together and listens to points of agreement, instead of arguing over points of disagreement. With an agreement, you can establish trust and respect, which is the first step towards working together to solve problems.
A statesman builds consensus among colleagues to tackle tough problems. It takes patience and good listening skills to solve major problems that require the agreement of at least 36 representatives, 18 senators and 1 governor.
A statesman has the courage to make decisions that may not be popular in the short term, but necessary to secure a beneficial outcome in the long term.
A statesman is more concerned with achieving results than merit.
The path to becoming a statesman begins with knocking on doors and talking one-on-one with a wide range of his constituents. You learn about the issues that really affect people’s daily lives. You learn to respect people of all political affiliations and treat them with civility in word and deed. You become a better public servant and a better person.
This is why I have chosen the path that leads to being a statesman.
Unfortunately, this road is less traveled by too many incumbents and candidates these days. To be clear, many of my parliamentary colleagues on both sides of the aisle are statesmen. We listen and learn from each other for our mutual benefit, even if we sometimes disagree.
However, too many people choose to be politicians. It is disheartening to see bills promoting ideological purity that divide communities and punish those who disagree. It is dangerous for legislators to give credibility to false and misleading information in order to curry favor with voters. If we continue down this increasingly resentful route, we end up with a government that rejects accountability after being elected; who does not care about those who disagree with them; who believes that the end justifies the means – which leads to operating without a moral or ethical compass.
We end up with a state without statesmen.
There is a way forward. Voters need to know who the people on their ballot really are. Ask yourself: Does the candidate take your vote for granted? Do they facilitate their contact? Did they knock on your door? Do they want to talk with you or to you?
If you want more statesmen and fewer politicians in the Idaho State Legislature, vote for the person – not a letter or a color.
Rep. Steve Berch is in his second term at Idaho House, representing District 15. Berch serves on the education, business, and local government committees.