Trust in elected officials is at an all time low. I can’t change how government conducts itself on my own, but I can raise the standard of how I behave, and urge constituents to join with me and expect better. Working together we can begin to turn people’s frustration into action and restore trust in government.
1. I must keep my priorities straight Part 1. I must not put the important work of the Legislature ahead of my family and spiritual life. No piece of legislation is more important than my family or my relationship with God. My priorities are: my relationship with God first, my relationship with my family second, then my work as an elected official. Matthew 22:37-38 Jesus declared, ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment.
2. I must keep my priorities straight Part 2. Matthew 22:39-40 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets depend on these two commandments.” I must remember that each of my constituents is a child of God endowed with certain unalienable rights, among them life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness, and property. I must remember all of my constituents are equal before the law. I must not favor one group over another. I must not favor the powerful over the weak, the rich over the poor, nor the politically well connected over average citizens.
3. I must have a vision of why I want to hold elected office. Where there is no vision, the people perish. People who run for office but have no clear vision for why they want to hold elected office often fail. Others who have no vision for seeking office tend to be power seekers who want to hold a title for their own benefit. I’m running for office to protect the freedom and expand the opportunity available to the people of my district and the people of Georgia, so that everyone is free to pursue happiness and has the opportunity to achieve the American dream. I will seek to build consensus with colleagues and the public to achieve this vision. I cannot legislate alone. Many others will have to support my vision, at least in part. The public must also support this vision. It does no good to get a bill passed into law if the people I serve overwhelmingly oppose what I am trying to accomplish. Consequently, I will actively work to persuade people my vision for what government can be is worthy of their support.
4. I must put constituents best interest ahead of special interests and the wishes of my political party. I will strive to remember I was elected by voters, not by lobbyists, the leadership of my political party, nor by the political leadership of the Legislature. I am accountable in a political sense to those who elected me.
5. I must put doing what’s right before political advancement. “a politician thinks of the next election, a statesman thinks of the next generation.” – J.F. Clarke. It’s easy to focus on the next election and the impact decision will have on electability. After all, if I’m not reelected, how can I accomplish all the good things I have planned? This mindset however, can become problematic. It can lead me to focus on the short term at the expense of what is in the long term best interest of the people of my district and of Georgia.
6. Golden Rule Part 1: I will never intentionally mislead a constituent, lobbyist, member of the press, or colleague. Trust is a key component to being a successful elected official and without the trust of constituents, lobbyists or colleagues, it will be almost impossible to accomplish anything meaningful. Matthew 7:22a So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you…
7. Golden Rule Part 2: I will never seek revenge against a constituent or colleague who votes against me or my legislation. Matthew 7:22a So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you…
8. It is my responsibility to be transparent with my constituents and the larger public. There is a gulf between what really happens in the halls of government and what people think happens. It is my responsibility as an elected official to be open and transparent by explaining how things work and what things mean. I must reject the myth that the public cannot handle the truth.
9. It is my responsibility to lead and set an example for my constituents. Like it or not, I am public figure and people watch my behavior. How I conduct myself is important and impacts our community. I must do my best to conduct myself in a manner befitting the office I hold and when I fall short, accept responsibility for my actions.
10. It is my responsibility to protect the buffer between individuals and the State. For a free society to thrive, there must be a buffer between the people and government. This buffer is occupied by private institutions that enrich and guide people’s moral lives such as family, community, and religious institutions. When that space is weakened, overrun by government, or even destroyed, all we are left with is the individual and the state. It is my job to protect those buffering institutions that keep our nation strong.
11. I must understand the principles of conservatism and not stray from them. Since I claim the conservative banner, I must understand the principles of conservatism. I must learn to apply these principles to our present political situation. Conservatism is not an ideology in the sense that is has a rigid platform that attempts to force the current situation to fit into dogma. Instead, conservatism is a set of principles that can be applied to deal with any situation. The political left always tries to bend society to it’s dogma through force of government. Conservatives seek to protect institutions that enrich people’s lives and keep them free from government interference. These ten principles, as expressed by Russell Kirk, are a good outline of conservatism.
12. I must understand the difference between principles, preferences, and politics. Principles guide me and shouldn’t be violated. However, not every piece of legislation deals with a core principle. Some are merely policy preferences and politics plays a role in what can be accomplished. It’s said politics is the art of the possible and this is true. Disagreements over preferences and politics need not be fights to the death. Determining what policy goals are possible is important.
13. I will endeavor to know the issues. “Specialize but read widely.” I must always read and understand what I am voting on. I must always be willing to learn and be willing to change my opinions based on new facts. It’s impossible to be an expert on all the issue we deal with in the Legislature. However, it’s important to spend time learning so that I can comprehend what I’m voting on. It’s also valuable to have a broad network of friends, advisers, and colleagues, I can rely on to help me understand issues I’m not expert in. I must also work with and speak with those of different political persuasions and walks of life. This helps sharpen my understanding of my own thoughts, and also see things from different perspectives.
14. I will work to find the right balance between my personal judgment and my constituents’ opinions. Edmund Burke said: “Your representative owes you, not his industry only, but his judgment; and he betrays instead of serving you if he sacrifices it to your opinion.” Interestingly, Burke lost a reelection bid for refusing to heed his constituents’ opinions. In a representative republic such as we have in America, my constituents elected me to represent their interests, which requires me to be informed use my own judgment as I cast votes. However, I cannot stray too far from public opinion or I will, like Burke, lose reelection. It’s not an easy balance to strike and quite frankly there will likely be times when my judgment will be different than that of my constituents. If it’s a matter of principle, it’s an easy decision, I will stick with my principles and suffer the political consequences. But if it’s not a matter of principle but of preference or politics, the decision becomes much more difficult. How should I decide in these difficult cases? I will do my best to find the right balance between my judgment and my constituents opinions, taking care not to put my own personal political advancement ahead of my constituents best interests.
15. I will seek to be reasonable, factual, anti-Utopian, not make the perfect the enemy of the good, not be in a constant state of agitation, and not excommunicate people with whom I disagree. Like most of the other 14 points in this list, I’ve learned these things from others. Like Isaac Newton, I stand on the shoulders of those who’ve came before me. The trust the voters have placed in me as an Elected Official requires me to be reasonable, to make fact based decisions, to understand that government cannot create a perfect society, nor bring salvation to the hearts and minds of people. Compromise is treated as a dirty word these days, and not all compromises are good ones, but holding out for everything you want politically or legislatively often leaves you empty handed. Being agitated at all times, or trying to keep people agitated may serve short term political goals but, doesn’t raise the level of political discourse, nor serve constituents’ best interests in the long run. Finally, cutting off people with whom I disagree will eventually leave me with nobody to work with. In my legislative career to date, I’ve disagreed, sometimes vehemently, with every one of my closest friends. How foolish would it have been to excommunicate them over political differences? The politics of personal destruction benefits none of us.