Last week I wrote some advice to new office holders based on lessons I’ve learned over the past few years. Here is some more, for what it is worth.
The new office holder must avoid the temptation to keep score and retaliate. Just about every legislator experiences the pain of defeat on a regular basis. This makes it all too easy for the legislator to keep a mental record of those who vote against his proposals.
This is a big mistake.
I have found that time moves extremely quickly in the legislative session. The pain of defeat is rapidly washed away by the emotion of subsequent events and an adversary on Monday becomes an ally on Thursday. Those who retaliate in the heat of the moment risk turning a temporary defeat into a permanent wound and creating a lifelong opponent.
Further, it is vital for the legislator to avoid even the appearance of keeping score. For example, it’s tradition for legislators, upon losing a vote, to approach the desk located at the front of the House floor to receive a print out of the vote. Those who voted “no” see the legislator receiving the tally sheet and worry that he is keeping score and will retaliate against them for not supporting the bill.
In my view, following a defeat, it’s a best practice for the legislator to not even look at the vote, if possible. This completely alleviates the temptation to retaliate because the legislator doesn’t know who voted against his bill.
Here’s another important piece of advice:
The use of the phrase, “Let me think about it” should become the legislator’s most utilized tool for dealing with pressure which will inevitably come from lobbyists and legislative colleagues. Its use or lack thereof will determine if the legislator will become a pawn of others or remain true to his principles.
It won’t take any time at all before the new office holder will be approached by those who press for immediate commitments before the lawmaker has time to realize the implications of his action.
For instance, a lobbyist may ask the legislator to sponsor a bill. Unfortunately, the legislator may agree to sponsor the legislation at first request before he can research the proposal. By the time he figures out what he has done, it’s too late and he can’t easily go back on his commitment to the lobbyist.
The new lawmaker now has to find a way to reconcile the bad proposal with his principles and his attempt to do so becomes his first compromise of principle. After that time, he will govern by an ever-growing, inconsistent universe of situational ethics that will eventually result in him not knowing the difference between up and down.
This is just one example when the phrase “Let me think about it” will save the office holder from tremendous grief and conflict and allow him to think through his decisions before he makes them.
There is rarely an occasion when the office holder must make an immediate decision, and those who use the contrived need for immediacy to seek instant commitment are often attempting to play political chess master.
Their attempts to control the legislator must be recognized and rejected!