Press "Enter" to skip to content

HOOSER: The rough and tumble of policy and politics

Pay attention to “self care” is the message I hear over and over from other “good troublemakers” in the community. The political environment can be toxic, and the work is never-ending. For a great majority of people on the planet, and for the planet itself, these are desperate times, and the needs are great.

It makes it hard sometimes to relax in the easy chair and read a good book.

“Take a break,” they tell me. “Eat right and exercise. Love and stay close to family and friends. Engage and enroll others to step up. Choose your battles. Recognize you cannot do it all, but every little bit you do makes the world better place. Leverage your skills, experience and networks. Work smarter, not harder. Appreciate yourself and be thankful for the gifts you have.”

Good advice, I think. Good rules to live by. Perhaps a good and reasonable path to self care.

In my experience, most who work in the world of policy and politics, whether as an advocate, a holder of political office, and/or as a candidate seeking election — do so out of a desire to help make the world a better place.

“What that looks like” will differ across the spectrum from the far right to the far left. I believe most enter the political world driven by a sense of obligation and purpose.

The reality of the political environment in which the work occurs, however, can be brutal. There are multiple competing interests constantly at war.

There are competing factions among lawmakers, administrators with their own agenda, labor unions public and private, constituents in the district and an unrelenting public microscope.

Profit-driven corporations seek greater profits, lower taxes and fewer regulations. Those who prioritize environmental and social protections push hard to increase regulation and taxes to offset impacts.

Every single licensed profession wants to expand its territory, while pushing back against those attempting to expand into their own area of work.

The most famous example is the annual legislative push by psychologists attempting to expand their “prescriptive authority” into the domain now held by psychiatrists. A complex issue with no easy answer.

Every large landowner wants to increase so-called “entitlements,” up-zone their lands and capitalize on government funded infrastructure.

Labor interests fight hard for increased worker pay and greater protections, while employers push back to keep pay and benefits as low as possible.

Yes, politics is the art of compromise. But at the end of the day, one must choose sides.

Every time any law is passed someone’s ox is gored, and it goes without saying the ox is never ever pleased.

Those serving in public office must be prepared to fully engage and defend their positions and values. The alternative is to work in a state of fear and defeat, cowering always when the big dogs come knocking, seeking help and votes.

This work is not for the faint of heart. The stress can be formidable, and concerns about “self care” are real. I can tell you to suck it up, and you must.

But I can and will also tell you to stop and smell the roses, get in the water, take a trip, eat right and exercise and, above all, hug those you love. If you don’t care for yourself you wont be able to care for others.

The work of policy and politics is a team sport. We need to malama those who truly serve our interest in public office. We must tell them both publicly and privately how much we appreciate the work they are doing, but we must step forward to help shoulder some of the work as well.


Gary Hooser is the former vice-chair of the Democratic Party of Hawai‘i, and served eight years in the state Senate, where he was majority leader. He also served for eight years on the Kaua‘i County Council, and was the former director of the state Office of Environmental Quality Control. He serves in a volunteer capacity as board president of the Hawai‘i Alliance for Progressive Action and is executive director of the Pono Hawai‘i Initiative.
Source: The Garden Island

Be First to Comment

    Leave a Reply

    %d bloggers like this: