There is a troubling and widespread phenomenon at play in our democracies around the world. It seems that politicians have lost sight that they are not Kings, but rather Servants. They are first of all employees, and secondly bosses. When they choose to run for office, they are applying for a job. And when voters elect an individual, the public official is being hired to do that job. Contrary to what seems to be popular belief, ELECTED officials do not have the freedom to do what they want. They do not have the freedom to change their job descriptions, or negotiate their workload, or to ignore the responsibilities they do not like. In fact, I would argue that ELECTED officials have very little freedom when it comes to their jobs. First, they must do what the constitution or their government’s authority demands. Second, they must do whatever it takes to succeed in the face of the problems that come their way. And third, they must strive to serve all of their constituents — their bosses — regardless of political persuasion and regardless of how hard the work might be.
Sadly, many elected officials are shirking their responsibility….
- President Trump recently said, “I’m not, and I don’t want to be, the president of the world…I’m the President of the United States — and from now on it’s going to be America first.” That is not his decision to make. The Constitution of the United States very clearly gives the president responsibilities to deal on the world stage. In this complex world, to shirk international responsibilities is to put America LAST. Last to influence the outcome. Last to be heard. Last to guide the world towards peace and prosperity. As a private real estate investor, Trump could choose every morning whether to work or not. He does not have that choice as President. He must do it all — everything — foreign and domestic — whether he likes it or not, and whether it is politically popular or not.
- Last year, the 114th Congress refused to consider Obama’s Supreme Court nominee. Once again, the Constitution very clearly states that the Senate shall advise and consent on Supreme Court nominations. Congress does not have the freedom to say, “We choose to not do our job”. Nor do they have the freedom to delay their work until it is convenient, expedient, or advantageous. Elected Employees may not like the tasks that are given to them! And, they may not like the timelines, deadlines, or circumstances under which the must work. But, most employees struggle with those dilemmas every day. Most employees are required to do things they would rather not do. And, most employees are given timelines and deadlines that are frequently burdensome and difficult. But, most employees recognize their roles and responsibilities as employees — accountable for the work they must do. Congress needs to be reminded that they serve at the pleasure of the people, not for their own pleasure or comfort.
- In Europe, Prime Minister Cameron faced a difficult political climate in which his grip on power was at risk. He faced a difficult choice with some leaders wanting to leave the European Union, and other leaders wanting to stay the course. So, rather than making a hard decision (to stay or to leave) — and suffering potential consequences of that decision — he abdicated his responsibility and destined the UK’s future on a non-binding vote as to whether the UK should be part of the European Union. That, of course, was the now famous “Brexit” vote. But, Cameron’s decision was ultimately a decision to not do his job. An employee — especially a boss — does not have the freedom to say “This decision is too difficult, or too unpopular, or too riskier, therefore I refuse to make a decision at all.” Good employees, and especially good bosses, do what is necessary…and they suffer the consequences if their decisions are unpopular or they do the wrong thing. When elected employees hide behind opinion polls — rather than trying to shape public opinion and/or make difficult decisions, they are refusing to do the job they were elected to do. In fact, they are ignoring the most important opinion poll of all — that the people’s opinion was that they — the elected employees — were the best people to get the job done in the first place.
When a elected official refuses to do the job they were elected to do, they are guilty of NONFEASANCE — “the omission of some act that ought to have been performed”. When an elected official does a bad job, it might be the result of poor skills, difficult circumstances, or even honest mistakes. But, when an elected official refuses to do their job, it is an act of willful neglect, disrespect for democracy, contempt for the public who elected them, and a subtle disdain for the very country, city, or jurisdiction they serve. When an ELECTED official refuses to do their job, they need to be reminded…that in a DEMOCRACY, they are first and foremost EMPLOYEES; secondly they are LEADERS; thirdly they are INDIVIDUALS; and never are they to be KINGS.