3 responses to “Political Participation”

  1. Bill

    I think it takes a certain type of personality to get into politics that most engineers just don’t have. The article you reference mentions dealing with this by training, but I’m not sure ‘Baby Kissing 101′ would really solve the problem. I remember a candidate in a previous election with some very good well thought out ideas. He was very dull, however, and got very few votes. It seems emotional appeal is more important than ideas when it comes to actually getting elected. And especially in the very partisan US, politicians seem to spend more time trying to marginalize the opposition than engaging in legitimate debate. Why get involved in that when we can spend more productive time doing things like making LEDs blink?

  2. Em

    I think most of the elected representatives (at least in Canada) who have been licensed engineers have also been lawyers or MBAs, which I think says that the more people/management-oriented engineers are more likely to go to politics than the tech-oriented engineers.

    I would call myself moderately politically engaged. I’m not a member of any party, but I have been known to write letters to and meet with my federal MP and provincial MLA when I have an issue I’m passionate about. I watched the first half of last night’s leader’s debate, and will watch the second half tonight. I’d love to BE an elected member of parliament, but there are a few reasons why I wouldn’t, and I think some of the reasons would hold true for a lot of the engineers I know:

    -I hate fundraising, but it’s necessary for running a successful campaign
    -I don’t fully agree with any of the party platforms, and wouldn’t be willing to campaign on platform points I disagree with
    -I’d rather focus on issues that I’m passionate about than a party line
    -I’m a terrible liar
    -I’m moderately introverted – I can handle people, but I get exhausted by ongoing interaction and need alone time
    -It’s financially risky – I can’t afford to quit work for 6 weeks for a potentially unsuccessful campaign
    -It’s a risk for my career – taking 6 weeks off to campaign says “I’d rather be doing something else” and puts your dedication to your current career in question
    -If elected for a period less than a reasonable time to retirement, re-entry to my current field would be very difficult, and I’d probably have to drop a level of seniority beyond what I would leave with, go back to school, find a new field, or some combination of the above.

    At this stage in my career I’d probably be more likely to go for a policy job than to actually run for something. Lower reward, but significantly lower risks.

  3. AS

    As Em said above, most the engineers that have gone into politics in the western world have not been the technical types. It’s hard to say it clearly, but in my experience most of the problem stems from the sort of unconditional factual honesty that is essential to good engineering getting in the way of how politics is done. If you’re trying to debug a design, you won’t get anywhere by hiding or denying any of the facts.