One of the more interesting phenomena I have witnessed is a progressive sense of entitlement the elected officials experience during their time in office.
There is a distinct transformation that takes place from the time individuals announce their candidacy to office to the time they are ready to run for office as incumbents.
First-time candidates possess a certain sense of humility that’s combined with an understanding of accountability. The vast majority of candidates start with good and altruistic intentions.
Many will begin with somewhat of an innocent and virgin glow surrounding their candidacy. In contrast to veteran politicians, there is often an aura of innocence surrounding newcomers. There may even be a halo over their head.
There is also a level of enthusiasm that many first-time candidates exude. It speaks volumes of expectations for all the positive changes they are willing to bring to their respective communities.
A certain level of gratitude is also harbored by many candidates toward those who are willing to support their candidacy for the first time. Whether the potential support is coming from individuals or organizations made up of residents, the new candidates always seem to be willing to listen to their audience.
In a nutshell, many first-time candidates will ask what they can do for their community, as opposed to what the community can do for them.
This type of approach is always refreshing to see and certainly expected during the first trial of running a campaign.
Often the transformation to the sense of entitlement can begin as early as the first day in office. The loads of gratitude toward supporters may slowly be replaced by expectations from the same individuals and organizational supporters.
This sense of entitlement can also be the Achilles’ heel of the many incumbents. In a stark contrast to their humble beginnings, incumbents may ask what the community will do for them as opposed to what they can do for the community.
This demeanor is not always blatant. It can come in a small but significant gesture of ungratefulness. This does not necessarily imply that the incumbent has not fulfilled his campaign promises. On the contrary, he may have also been very competent.
But for better or worse, people often recognize this change in attitude and may make up their mind to support candidates based on this type of subjective feedback. The shift to a sense of entitlement is sometimes a measure of whether the candidate recognizes his accountability to the voters.
Ironically, this overconfident approach can serve as the Achilles’ heel for many incumbents. An Achilles’ heel is a fatal weakness in spite of overall strength, actually or potentially leading to downfall. While the mythological origin refers to a physical vulnerability, metaphorical references to other attributes or qualities that can lead to their downfall are common.
I say Achilles’ heel, because many savvy elected officials will begin to build a network of support once they are in office. This is an advantage many first-time candidates can never have. In addition, incumbents will have the duration of their time in office to show to the voters what they can do. If they have a proven record, have not been involved in major scandals, and have been shrewd enough to align all the stars to their benefit, they should theoretically be a shoo-in.
Unless of course, they show a lack of respect or gratitude to their supporters.
I don’t mean to suggest all incumbents suffer from a sense of invincibility. There are always variations to this formula. From time to time, you will come across incumbents and officials who will remember your $99 donation to their campaign. They may even come up to you during a busy function and recognize you by your first name. There are also those that will remember the phone banking effort you volunteered your young nephew for during their first run for office.
The skeptics may just see this as just good politics. But there may be yet another way to look at these types of gestures. People appreciate individuals who recognize the people who believed them when no one else was willing to take the risk.
PATRICK AZADIAN is a writer, Glendale resident and the director of admissions at Mt. Sierra College in Monrovia. He may be reached at respond@ fromthemargins.net.