Courting Cinderella

For the last 8 months, I’ve been courted like Cinderella at the ball.

This sounds sweet, but the long term ramifications aren’t necessarily good.

Think for a moment about a quiet, shy young woman who has stayed out of the limelight her whole life. She is really smart and very pretty, but has never raised her face up long enough or spoken enough for people to truly appreciate who she is. Then suddenly, she is cast into the center of the room and the boys fall over themselves to get her to give them more than a glance. She never wants for something to do or someone to talk to, one young man or another is constantly taking her out on the town, buying her delicious meals, taking her to shows, and going to dance at the best places.

At some point, she will have to make a decision. Which of these men is Mr. Right? Many have asked for her hand, some are a better choice than others, but she can only choose one.

Or maybe she doesn’t need to make a decision anytime soon. She could string these guys along, milking the cow for every last drop. Wanting her hand in marriage, they will offer her gifts of all kinds and make promises they can’t possibly keep. And because she enjoys the attention, attention she has never before received, she plays them like a fiddle until the time will come that she absolutely must make a decision.

Suddenly, I understand how this young woman feels. It’s in a strange way that I never could have anticipated, but it is very real.

Last fall I was elected to a public office. It’s a position with a great big title and comes with a lot of respect and responsibility, although there is no remuneration for my work, not even expenses. Many people call this a stepping stone for people who want a long term career in government while others serve in the position after a long career in politics as a place to still hold some influence. I look at it as an I-really-don’t-believe-I-did-this-what-was-I-thinking position. It is exciting. I enjoy most of the people with whom I’m getting to work and am thankful for the opportunity.

At the end of this week, I have a very important vote that I will have to cast. Currently, I’m being pulled like a rag doll in seven different directions by those who want my vote. I have had multiple state representatives, college professors, doctors, lawyers, and professional political operatives to make personal contact with me in the last few weeks. WOW! I’ve been offered meals, committee assignments, and other perks if I will only commit my vote.

Meanwhile, I can count on one hand the total number of contacts by my constituents to ask me to vote in a certain manner – and I would not use all the fingers on that hand to count them.

I have suddenly come to really understand how legislators at both the state and federal level work so hard to get elected and then completely ignore their constituents while in office, until election time rolls around again. At my state capitol, there are over 400 registered lobbyists who show up every day to court lawmakers through any necessary means in order to get the votes they need to make their own life and their own industry better for them. In Washington DC, there are over 600 lobbyists for the oil industry alone! How can any congressman possibly refuse when they have that many people wooing them every day?

I have long held a deep respect for my elected officials and many others. I do not envy the work they do. I do not envy the pressures they face. While I follow a handful of bills at a given time, they have to watch hundreds of them all the time. Honestly, I’m just not that smart or that skilled at juggling that much stuff.

They aren’t either. So they rely on others to help direct them and advise them as to how they should vote. Whose advice do they take? Whoever gives it the most. And if that person or entity is willing to offer perks for voting in a certain way, well, that just helps ease their conscience. If someone handed you $5000 to vote for something that didn’t matter to you one way or the other, you would do it in a heartbeat.

I used to think that I would never be swayed by lobbyists. I still want to believe that I’m a person of character and integrity, and I’ve not accepted any of the perks I’ve been offered for my vote. I don’t intend to, either. But I also understand how other lawmakers could fall right into the snare set for them. The attention is really exciting, especially for those who have never received any before this.

It would certainly be easier for me to make my decision, though, if those in my district would let me know how they would like me to cast my vote. I imagine most newly elected lawmakers feel the same way. When constituents do not make contact, then the legislators are left with the swooning lobbyists to court them. And they are pros at courting.

~Temerity Dowell

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