Since I ran for public office last year (and won), I’ve thought a lot about what makes for a good politician.
Many traits come to mind.
Wisdom. Experience. Policy knowledge. Vision.
I keep coming back to empathy.
Here in Yachats, as I listen to the members of the community, a wide variety of perspectives and interests emerge.
And I’ve come to understand that it’s not always possible to find a way forward that aligns with everyone’s interests.
Policy makers and leaders must be careful.
The loudest voices stand out. These perspectives often belong to the most privileged people.
Thus it is crucial to take the extra time to listen—really, truly listen—to the members of the community who might be disadvantaged or marginalized.
These people frequently suffer the most harm by legislation that doesn’t consider their needs.
Many politicians develop policy for the typical privileged person and maybe think about others for a moment near the end of the process.
This isn’t enough. By then the damage is done, and the conversations turn toward making disadvantaged people feel like their needs are a burden for everyone else.
I look to leaders like Castro, Harris, and Gillibrand for inspiration. Their empathy for marginalized people shows in their efforts to listen and develop inclusive, intersectional policy.