I saw this photo and caption in The Washington Post today.
Without even getting into the shit storm that Governor Snyder has created in Michigan, the sentiment he expressed here touched a nerve.
I tend to be very literal, so I need to first say that I should be willing to give a little here. The idea of approaching being elected representatives as if they were in the customer service industry has some appeal. Treat the electorate like customers of Nordstrom. Greet me. Ask what I need. Do everything you can to ensure that I get what I need and have a pleasant experience. Walk around from behind the counter and hand me my bag full of goods, and wish me well.
The problem, though, is that too many elected officials do look at the people that elected them into office as customers. Maybe it’s semantics to some, but I don’t like this phrasing. I am not a customer (of the city, state, or country) — I’m an owner. A shareholder. The boss. My tax dollars pay the bills and, by extension, the salaries of elected officials. The idea that I am a customer somehow relegates me to accepting the service offered. I think this idea needs to be completely flipped on its head, and Governor Snyder, and others, need to realize that they are employees — custodians at best. Shifting the mindset of us, citizens, as customers, waiting on service, to being the boss, owner or steward of the country — clearly defining the priorities for the employees to carry out — is an important one.
Again, I get the metaphor of providing customer service, but having worked in politics and government for over 20 years, it has become clear to me that far too many elected officials see themselves as the boss, not the staff. We need to fix that perception and reality. It will take work, though. A lot of people seem all too happy to hand over the keys to the store, if you will, and let the elected officials do what they think is best. We have to be more active, and hold our officials accountable. Accountable to explain what’s happening. Accountable to explain how our money is being spent.
This is not a rant directed at Republicans. Democrats are just culpable. Irrespective of political party/affiliation, we cannot sit back and leave governing to whims of politicians. This is a representative government, and it is time that we clarify that we are not the customers of elected officials. We are their bosses.