Press conference questions and answers:
If elected, how will you address issues relating to the economy, the environment, poverty, corruption, unemployment, immigration, foreign policy, and the deficit?
I don’t know the answer to this question. These issues are far too multifaceted, nuanced, and entangled for me to develop an effective course of action on my own. I would be living a lie if I pretended to have solutions: I do not possess expert, superhuman knowledge about every aspect of society. If elected to office I am duty bound to consult and learn from those who have have devoted themselves to understanding these issues from every possible angle. And, furthermore, I will seek out the strongest arguments from every opposing side, which means that I will likely never feel absolutely confident about my decisions, even after I have made them.
Hey, that’s not an answer at all. Don’t you need a mandate from the electorate? You need to give us some clues as to what you want to do. How will you vote when policy is introduced to tackle these issues?
You tell me. You are not electing an automaton to vote on every tabled motion for the next four years like a mindless robot. If representative democracy means anything more than just casting a ballot once a year, then you are electing your interface with the government, not a readymade list of prefabricated decisions. If I knew, right now, how I was going to vote on every issue, then you would essentially be electing me on the promise to not think for four years.
Damn, this is frustrating! Ok, let’s try this question instead: do you politically align more with the left or the right?
I am a pragmatist, not a partyist. I care about decisions in light of their consequences, rather than their adherence to arbitrary, make-believe categories of ideology. Therefore, I align with people who do their best to weigh both sides of every argument, and who are brutally and critically accepting of the fact they are easily blinded by their own biases. These people are my ‘party’, regardless of what colours they wear or which side of room they sit on.
So, basically you want us to elect you into office even though you have no answers, make no promises, and claim no affiliation?
Politics is relational. Ultimately, you are not electing a campaign, an ideal, or a platform here — you are electing a person. Campaigns, ideals, and platforms do not sit behind desks or raise their hands to vote, people do. I cannot see the future: I cannot tell you what issues we will face as a community, nor how we will address them when they arise. Right now the question is not, What are we going to do in the next four years? but more importantly, How are we going to make decisions in the next four years? I will do my best to represent my constituency by listening and learning, and then listening and learning over and over again. My intent is to be open to all sides, continually examining new evidence, and always willing to hear counterarguments. If democracy literally implies that the masses have a voice, then we must all keep talking along the way.
You know that successfully elected candidates usually have pithy little slogans that relate to prospective voters, like ‘Stop the gravy train!’, ‘Zero percent tax increases!’, or ‘Change.’ Is there a way you could describe your campaign in a way that makes sense to people who like concise and simple goals?
No. Because the issues and challenges that politics must address are not simple problems. Just watch the news: these challenges are more complicated than any single candidate, political party, or even government can solve all by themselves… so the solutions are probably beyond anything a single marketing department can develop!
Do you seriously think anyone will vote for you on this, um, ‘platform’? You do not seem to know what you are doing.
Do you think anyone knows what they are doing? Do you believe that magical, silver-bullet solutions exist? And if so, do you believe that political candidates are the ones who just happen to be walking around with the answers miraculously buried inside their heads? Do you think that candidates running for office are demigods? Do not vote for me because you think I have the answers — vote for me because you trust me, as another human being, to humbly and tenaciously collaborate with you for the next four years as we do our best to forge a way forward.
Without an explicit campaign platform — and without actually saying anything concrete about the issues at hand — it seems impossible to imagine that anyone could trust you enough to vote for you.
Obviously people should only vote for me if they trust me. But I’m not going to stand here and lie, pretending that I have omniscient understanding of the issues or special divination of the future. In fact, if people don’t vote for me, I’ll be quite relieved. The pressure of a term in office seems overwhelming; the scale of the task before us is daunting and exhausting. The truth of the matter is that I am often aggravated by committee work, I loathe public appearances, I could not care less about photo ops, and I’m chronically uncomfortable speaking with the press and media. Oh, and what does shaking hands like a celebrity and swooning over babies for publicity have to do with anything, anyway? Why does all this sound like a celebrity contest? Come to think of it, there are not many aspects of this prospective appointment that I am actually looking forward to. (And besides, after four years of trying my best to listen to all sides, how do you think this will likely end? I will probably be unable to adequately appease any single ‘voting bloc’ enough to be reelected again, which means this whole thing is probably going to land me in a fairly lonely, alienated place, politically speaking.)
This is absolutely ridiculous. Nobody is ever going to vote for you! You don’t sound like a leader at all. We aren’t electing a workshop facilitator in this election, you know.
But is our current model and expectation of political leadership effective? If the status quo of leadership — as manifested by the rhetoric-charged partisanship around us — is our working definition, then I propose that it is high time to reconsider our narrative and mythology of ‘leadership’ itself. Our current expectation of leadership does not appear to be helping us get beyond gridlock anyway, so let’s revisit the very concept. I am happy to run not as a ‘leader’, but as a facilitator.
Well, good luck on your, er, ‘campaign’ of listening and facilitation. What a joke. I’m guessing this will be your last press conference! You’ve promised nothing to the people.
You do, in truth, have one very explicit promise from me: I promise to do my best. That is all I can promise. The question is not, Do all politicians lie? but rather, Can a politician be elected without lying? Can a person run for office without pretending to be something they are not… or have we created an electoral system and governance model that systematically requires us to jettison our integrity in order to play an increasingly irrelevant political game?