The Honest Politician: A Fable
An idealistic lawyer was about to turn forty. He said to himself, “I make a good living at what I do, but at this point in my life I’d rather make a difference. Our country’s a mess right now, and I want to help put it back on the right course.” So he decided to run for Congress.
The lawyer was well-liked in his community. He looked good, sounded even better and radiated an aura of impassioned honesty. In short, he had the makings of a natural candidate. After putting out some feelers, he won the support of his district’s party organization and launched his campaign. (Whether he was a Republican or Democrat is immaterial to our fable.)
Almost immediately the candidate was approached by an ongoing parade of important-looking representatives from a host of important-sounding organizations. “You’re our boy,” they all exclaimed in one way or another. “We’re going to fund your campaign and see to it that you win the election. After all, we need to have a good friend like you serving in Congress.”
“I’m glad you think of me as a good friend,” the candidate told his backers. “And I’m grateful for your support. You won’t be disappointed.”
The candidate ran a brilliant campaign. He dazzled the crowds with his fervent speeches and promised that, if elected, he’d devote himself to serving his constituents — even the ones who voted against him. And he’d never, under any circumstances, allow himself to be bought by special interests. Meanwhile, his backers looked at each other and winked.
Election Day arrived, and the young candidate won his seat in Congress. Soon after settling into his office on Capitol Hill, he was once again approached by those important-looking representatives from those important-sounding organizations.
“Here’s our agenda for the next two years,” they told him. “We’d like you to study it and get back to us with your plans for implementing it.”
“Wait a minute,” the new Congressman protested. “I’m glad you liked me enough to support my campaign, and I’m grateful that your money helped me get elected. But I’m the one who sets the agenda here, and I set it by listening to my constituents.”
“No you don’t!,” his backers barked at him. “We financed your election, and now you owe us your loyalty. We own you.”
“Own me?,” the Congressman replied calmly. “As I recall, gentlemen, the Thirteenth Amendment abolished slavery back in 1865. Nobody owns anybody in this country. You can look it up.”
“But you promised that you wouldn’t disappoint us!,” the backers fumed.
“I won’t disappoint you,” the Congressman answered. “I’m planning to be the best representative my district has ever had.”
“But you took our MONEY!,” the backers raged. “We expect SOMETHING in return!”
“Look at it this way,” said the Congressman. “You helped elect an honest politician. That’s something these days, isn’t it? I’ve thanked you for your generosity. Now get out of here and let me do my job.”
“You’ll never get re-elected!,” the backers screamed as they left his office.
The honest Congressman leaned back in his chair. “But you don’t elect me,” he said. “My constituents do.” And he proved to be such an outstanding representative that he was re-elected in a landslide.
Moral of the story: Don’t believe everything you read in fables.