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Poplar Talks

Politicians: First and foremost, public servants

Zoe Haggard
Posted 3/5/22

Let’s make sure we hold our politicians accountable as our employees—not as their subjects.  

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Poplar Talks

Politicians: First and foremost, public servants

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There’s a true story I think about when I hear “politicians should be public servants.”  

During the American Civil War, an impoverished man walked right up to the White House and knocked on the door. Low and behold, President Abraham Lincoln himself answers the door. Could you imagine doing that today?  

When Alexander Hamilton and James Madison (and John Jay) wrote the Federalist Papers explaining and persuading the American People to adopt the U.S. Constitution, they wrote it with the intention that the Executive Branch would not have law-making ability.  

“[The Executive branch] is essential to the protection of the community against foreign attacks; it is not less essential to the steady administration of the laws,” writes Hamilton in Federalist No. 70, “The Executive Department Further Considered” (from March 18, 1788.)  

In fact, the president had very few roles outside of being the head of state. Hamilton goes on to explain that in addition to foreign attack, the executive branch must be “the protection of property against those irregular and high-handed combinations which sometimes interrupt the ordinary course of justice; to the security of liberty against the enterprises and assaults of ambition, of faction, and of anarchy.”  

And all those roles were checked by the legislative and judicial branch.  

George Washington wanted to be simply “Mr. President,” not Lord of the States. They were trying to escape the monstrosity that the Georgian monarchy had become in England.  

The roles of the executive branch have become so twisted and convoluted today. The presidency no longer seems like a public servant’s role but a monarchy—on both sides of the isle.  

I think the higher up on the power ladder one goes, the less roles he or she should have. But out of those few roles, the weight of responsibility should be at its greatest.  

Now, how does this translate to the local level?  

We elect mayors, commissioners, school board members, councilmen, and a host of other offices to serve our community’s needs.  

The key words: ‘we’ elect. They are our employees. They represent us where we cannot represent ourselves. They champion resolutions and laws that we cannot champion ourselves. It’s so important to get to know your local leaders. 

Many of those at the state level, and especially those at the federal level, are inaccessible. But pull up a list of commissioners; they have phone numbers or emails generally listed.  

Almost all City and County meetings are livestreamed, while agendas and meeting minutes are posted publicly on their government websites. Learn how the local politicians are voting on those issues.  

Here’s the kicker: local issues affect you more directly than federal ones. We are the residents that directly feel the effects of the world they, our local leaders, are creating. We’re the ones driving the roads, shopping at the shops, and paying the taxes.  

So, of course, cast your vote.  

In this way, let’s make sure we hold our politicians accountable as our employees—not as their subjects.  

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