Important for voters to understand participatory politics

I appreciated The Independent’s front-page feature (“The four voices representing the East Mountains in Santa Fe,” Feb. 22-28) that allowed two state senators and two state representatives to speak for themselves as reported by Thomas Campbell. Giving each of them an opportunity to speak unfiltered by editorial comment gave me a sense of the character and purpose of four elected officials who now have some influence as to how New Mexico should be run.

Having said that, it is important for us voters to understand the realities of participatory politics. One assumes that a person runs for office because she or he sees problems to be addressed and to spark projects in which they see potential good. Presumably (we hope) good intentions, pet causes, informed views and possible solutions accompany every elected politician into office. But if that is true for one elected official, it is true for all.

Earning trust and respect among one’s peers is vital to success for one’s causes and constituents. To push one’s pet projects through committee vetting and onto the floor for a vote requires promises honored and the mutual support of trading votes as long as it does not represent an abandonment of principles. Then there is the legislative leadership that has to decide which bills get an airing, can draw sufficient member support and withstand opposition challenges. It’s a bit like payday when all the kids cluster around Mom and Dad to plead for money.

Any politician who can retain their principles while they maneuver through the give and take of competing demands and the maelstrom of advice and criticism that greets every vote except a ‘yea’ for declaring Red Chile Day, deserves our respect at least, if not our vote. If you think not, and that you can do better, run for office.

Frank Cullen, Edgewood