Archive - Jul 4, 2012
Here is another one of my longer blog posts thinking about what it means to run for office. It has also been submitted to the Bethwood Patch.
Recently, I wrote a blog post about being a participant observer in electoral politics. I'm running for State Representative in the 114th Assembly District in Connecticut, which includes all of Woodbridge, much of Orange, and the eastern side of Derby. Since that blog post, I've been very busy with tactical aspects of my campaign and haven't been writing as much as I would like.
This morning, I'm taking a few minutes to reflect on an aspect of running for elected office that I haven't found a lot written about, group dynamics.
I've had a long interest in group dynamics, especially as it relates to online communities and to group psychotherapy. It's a topic I've studied for over a decade and I'm a member of a mailing list of group psychotherapists.
So, let's try to look at this from a group perspective. I'm a member of a very large, non cohesive group. It is made up of about 15,000 members. It is the registered voters in the 114th assembly district. Like any large group, there are interesting subgroups to look at. There are the registered Democrats, the registered Republicans, the unaffiliated voters, and those that are registered with less known political parties.
There is the group of people who vote in primaries, the group of people who vote in municipal elections, the group of people who vote only in presidential elections, and the group of people who don't get out and vote at all.
I have chosen, perhaps because of some valence, to take up the role of candidate. For my friends with a group relations bent based, I am perhaps engaged in what Wilfred Bion would refer to as Basic Assumption - Pairing. My opponent and I are engaged in a discourse representing different views of how our community should move forward. The rest of the group watches, perhaps adding comments here or there, and hoping that the person whose views most closely match theirs prevails. We are seeing this dynamic intensify in U.S. politics as politics becomes more and more polarized.
The subgroup of those who are politically active and are hoping my views will prevail show a wide range of reactions. Some have contributed the maximum amount of money permissible to my campaign. With the Citizens Election Program in Connecticut, that is $100. They have spent time helping me get my message out. They express frustration that I have not been raising enough money, that I have not been contacting enough voters, or that I have not stayed closely enough to my message. They have high hopes for my campaign, and nothing will be enough to satisfy them until I get elected. Others, who are politically active and that I've hoped would be more involved in the campaign have resisted my requests for assistance and have expressed frustration at my repeated requests.
My job, assuming I get elected, will be to represent all of the people in the district. Not just those who share my views, or not just those that hold specific expectations of me.
At times, I hold the frustrations of my most ardent supporters, the weariness of my least enthused supporters, and I try to maintain the participant observer role in such a way that I might transform local politics.
How do we move away from basic assumption - pairing thinking, while at the same time holding fast to our hopes and dreams? How do we find common ground while seeking to differentiate ourselves from our opponents? How do we keep campaigning at peek performance without burning out?
These are the questions I struggle with as I campaign. Part of my stump speech is, don't vote for me because I have all the answers, parroted from party leaders or talking heads on cable television. Vote for me because I'll ask the tough questions. How do we understand the group dynamics of electoral politics and shift them to more of a working group behavior is just one of those difficult questions.