03.30.2016 09:38 AM

The question I ask about politicians, and politicos, in next week’s column

To wit: why bother?

A snippet, below.  Your speculation is welcome, as always.

Children, someone once observed, are the only known form of immortality.

That rarely deters the makers of monuments, the curers of disease, the inventors and discoverers, the authors of books and songs and art: all valiantly attempt, in some small measure, to defy death. But we cannot ever hold mortality’s strong hand (per The Bard). The “undiscover’d country” awaits us all.

Politicians, and political folk, remain mulishly undeterred. They do not ever embrace politics to achieve riches: unless one is a crook, and also very lucky, there really aren’t any riches to be had. They do not do so to be loved: for many, all that lies ahead is hate mail, and the insults of strangers at baggage carousels. They don’t do it for their health, either: plenty of them start drinking too much, exercising too little, and – in a small minority of cases – even smoking crack.

Finally, they don’t succumb to the political life because it will bring them closer to their family. For a disproportionately-large number, politics routinely ends in divorce, and alienated offspring. It is, indeed, an unspeakably lonely life (per Kim Campbell).

So why does any sensible person do it?


  1. I think there are many who really do want to provide a public service.

    I think to many others, it’s the game, baby … it’s the game.

  2. Ric Bresee says:

    the answer is quite simple. For most of us who toil in the big picture anonymity ( and small pond glaring spot light) of small town municipal politics, the answer is that we see that we can make a difference. There is typically a cause, a goal, or a failing that brings us to focus on the seat, at whatever level of government, or even a board for a local service club, a volunteer organization, or an advocacy group. Churchill is quoted as saying “If you’re not a liberal at 20 you have no heart, if you’re not a conservative at 40 you have no brain.” In both cases, heart or brain, it means you believe in something. Something bigger than yourself, bigger than getting the lawn cut, the laundry done, and getting the kids to school today. Something for the whole community. A belief that tomorrow will be better.
    With all of the angst that comes with a public office, if we are to be immortal in any way other than our offspring, then we have to have done something to recognizable to improve our community.It can be seen as an egotistical goal, or the ultimate in altruism. In some ways I am still the 20 year old Utopian-ist dreaming of a wonderful society, and in others I have the post-middle-aged realist striving to protect the generations that come from the failings of the past. But ultimately, there is a very human and a very Canadian desire to help.
    in brief.. the answer is: Dreamer or realist, if you can see beyond yourself, then it is a most sensible thing to do.

  3. Ric Bresee says:

    Wow – on re-reading my own words, I didn’t intend for that diatribe to be quite as PollyAnna Sunshine as it turned out, but for many politicians at all levels, you just have to believe!

    • Maps Onburt says:

      Conservative,Liberal or NDP, I think you nailed it. There are a few who are in it for the power or ego, but I think the reason you get started is that you want to make a difference. Then you start believe your own press releases. 3 terms should be the maximum. Fresh blood with a balance of experience.

  4. Ronald O'Dowd says:


    In spite of the toxic atmosphere, public service remains a noble cause. And the best among them, hope and plan to make a difference.

  5. Dave says:



    They truly believe they can make the world a better place.

  6. Vancouverois says:

    Many different reasons. Some people are raised in politically aware families; some get involved because they care a lot about a specific issue, enough to do something concrete; and some are just sociopaths.

    Also, I think a lot of politicians get involved at a relatively young age, before things like children and family life are issues for them. And by the time they start to realize what their political careers are costing them in that regard, they’re too deeply involved to be able to extricate themselves easily – and too committed. It’s only when they become burned out, or disillusioned, or something else tips the balance, that they’re able to make the break.

  7. ABB says:


  8. Kelly says:

    Because conservatives think they’re right about everything and everyone else knows they aren’t, so have to do something about it.

  9. Mark says:

    I once had a conversation with an MP about the life and sacrifice in politics. He told about the draining effect it has on a marriage and the personal life of a politician. Particularly an MP who has to travel to Ottawa regularly, the emotional and physical distance is straining. Elections weigh on relationships and more often than not, it leaves an MP re-assessing their lifestyle.

    He told me about a Liberal MP who is now retired. He was a good orator with an extensive understanding in policy development. However, when he chose not to run again, despite almost being guaranteed re-election, he decided that he was much happier returning to his law practice while being able to stay close to his family. Plus, he would make slightly more money in the private sector.

    What I got from the conversation was that politics strains ones life outside of it; its all consuming and really is a lonely place to be. But the thing that keeps these folks motivated is purely intrinsic –its a internal pull towards politics that keeps them going. We spoke about how despite the sacrifices and energy expended, we’re still drawn to this life and his words were “yeah, but thats because we’re a different animal”.

    Something about politics attracts people and motivates them to keep going forward. Those who can’t cope, drop out before it takes too much of a toll. Those who survive are often willing to put their mental well being at risk. Ultimately, you become cynical and jaded about personal relationships, which turns politics into an emotional crutch. Some people are just pre-disposed to this sort of life.

  10. MississaugaPeter says:

    DNA and/or EGO.

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