Don’t be an armchair politician - The Southeast Sun: Jan Murray

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Don’t be an armchair politician

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Posted: Tuesday, July 26, 2016 5:01 pm

“Only armchair politicians are immune from committing mistakes. Errors are inherent in political action. Those who are in the center of political struggle, who have to deal with practical and pressing problems, are afforded little time for reflection and no precedents to guide them and are bound to slip up many times,” Nelson Mandela wrote in an unpublished autobiographical manuscript in 1975.

What a wise saying. I can’t help but notice in the heat of the current political season—both nationally and local—that we have a lot of armchair mayors and city council members. They are everywhere, especially on social media. That’s fine…to an extent.

As a journalist, I and my fellow news reporters get to learn something new just about every day. We are, kind of, paid observers, researchers, writers and reporters. We attend meetings and events that most everyday citizens do not get to do or, perhaps, choose not to attend. There is a problem with this, in my mind, when it comes to government and those that seek positions of power in government.

Month after month, we attend school board meetings, city council meetings and county commission meetings. Most times, the media and the officials required to be at the meetings are about all that attend. Sure, there are department heads—sometimes—in attendance when required, but very few times are there ordinary citizens sitting in the audience.

Yes, when there are controversial issues you will find more people at meetings, but then issues get old and what few people showed up fade away as well.

Now, we are only a few weeks away from municipal elections and still there are few people, if any, attending meetings.

This is my question and concern: if you never attend meetings, how do you know what your government officials are doing or even if they know what they are doing? How can you express opinions about what is or isn’t being done, or what you perceive isn’t being done if you have never once attended a public meeting of officials to see?

My challenge to all voters is to vote with knowledge, not with hearsay. Vote with what you actually know, not what someone else has said or believes. Let your brain rule your vote, not your emotions or baseless opinions. And, whomever you vote for, make sure they actually know how to do what they say they want to do. Don’t just accept blank statements. Ask them how they will do what they say and ask whether they know the steps to reaching their goals.

If you think current leaders haven’t done a good job, be specific in your own mind and let it be factual, not just an opinion based on what you’ve heard.

In other words, don’t be an armchair politician from the comfort and safety of your home because then your “efforts” don’t do anything but create confusion and chaos.

We live in a republic, not a democracy. In other words, we vote for other people who then make the decisions. So, make your decision based on facts and try your very best to get those facts firsthand.

Jan Murray is a staff writer for The Southeast Sun and Daleville Sun-Courier. The opinions of this writer are her own and not the opinion of the paper. She can be reached at (334) 393-2969 or by email at

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1 comment:

  • Local Boy posted at 12:51 pm on Wed, Jul 27, 2016.

    Local Boy Posts: 1

    Jan has squarely hit the nail on the head and drives home the point on voter and citizen apathy. I routinely attend the city council meetings in my town and we only have 3 other residents who attend on a regular basis. I have tried to encourage my neighbors to attend and get involved, but they have no interest. Personally I no longer want to hear people complain about or talk trash about our mayor and city council when they have no first hand contact or knowledge of what happens month to month during the two bi-monthly meetings. Good article Jan and thanks for highlighting this social problem.