Public Men in and out of Office

By J. T. Salter | Go to book overview

28
THE VOTER'S POLITICIAN "The Voter's Other Self"

BY J. T. SALTER

THE POLITICIANS (OR PUBLIC MEN, I USED THE TERM interchangeably) are the men who govern through suasion, talk, discussion, jobs, and all that sort of thing. Here the emphasis is on wit, the reasonable position, or a flair for presenting a compromise acceptable to conflicting groups. "Finality is not the language of politics," and neither is force. The politician does not in normal times take a stand on a controversial issue. And who does? The individuals who do, stand alone, and a politician cannot afford to stand alone. Neither can he afford the luxury of love and hate, for numbers are important to him. He is necessarily a tolerant man because his success depends on the favorable response of his constituents, and they may be of every race, creed, and color. He lives outside of himself; he is interested in the life around him. He has got to be. He has been called the symbol of the last best hope of earth. And he is a symbol of ourselves too. A modern bible might put it, By your politicians are ye known. He is as he is because his constituents--a controlling number--are as they are. A people that cannot pick the right politician will perish, or, rather, self government among such people will perish.

"The most important task confronting the people in a democracy is that of picking the right politicians."1 This was

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1

"Some of these politicians are leaders and others are just symbols of the status quo. They are men elected to the 800,000 or so elective offices in the United States, and the authentic politicians among them are elected not once, but many times. They--and in some cases their sponsors, who send them rather than hold office themselves--are the government--national, state, and local. They chart the public policies which, in this day of the positive-service state--will largely

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