Running for Political Office

Running for political office in the United States is, in a sense, the act of defining a better vision for this country. Candidates collectively spend countless hours and millions of dollars describing their vision of a better America to the American public.

Candidates offer up a litany of issues they will tackle, such as wrongs they will make right, programs they will help to fund, programs they will vote to phase out, taxes they will vote to increase and who will pay them. Other ideas include which taxes they will cut or phase out, energy sources they will promote, and relationships with countries they will encourage their Administration to nurture or hold at arm’s length.

There is no issue too trivial to merit mention in their quest to identify the ones that resonate with the voting public.

The candidates who emerge victorious on November 8, 2016 will have the monumental task of identifying how to fulfill promises made, reuniting the country, and to take positive steps for achieving their vision of America. They must quickly shift their focus from running for office to running the government, as members of the public receive their goods and services through interaction with government-administered programs.

Make no mistake about it … in these volatile times, voters will be watching to see if the elected candidates deliver on their vision. No single elected official can do this alone, not even the person elected to the highest political office, the Presidency of the United States.

In reality, the expectation is that the President will gain the support of Congress and special interest groups, and the President will identify the right people to help realize the vision.

Running the Government

Before assuming office on January 20, 2017, the new President will assemble a list of potential persons to fill key positions in Cabinet-level agencies and in other departments that will work to deliver on the President’s campaign promises.

It is virtually out with the old and in with the new. Appointees who hold positions in the outgoing administration will be asked to tender their resignations. Most of them will be expected to be off the rolls early in the new Administration, so there may be no opportunity to meet with a position’s predecessor.

Career civil service employees will provide the continuity between one administration and the next to keep programs operating. Many long-term civil servants hold historical information that may prove to be useful, and most are used to policy shifts and program changes brought in by each new Administration. They will be very important as Administration appointees move to place their personal stamp on agencies and appointed positions.

Political appointees are responsible for formulating, advocating and directing Administration policies and programs. It falls to political appointees within an agency or department to outline changes in direction for the agency. Political appointees work with their staff to identify the problems, describe the solutions, craft the new policies, establish the priorities, identify the tasks that lead to policy implementation, evaluate the successes, and determine the new or modified program directions. These types of activities will take place in virtually every Federal department or agency, all within the political framework set by the President.

The most successful appointees recognize that public service is a public trust, and they carry out their responsibilities in the public interest. They recognize and accept that they are accountable to a number of disparate interests: the Administration (Executive branch), Congress, the media, and the public; and they direct their actions towards communicating effectively with them all.

The average length of service for most political appointees is about 24 to 30 months, a relatively short time to accomplish policy or program objectives. It is important to begin immediately to identify a few key areas with major impacts that can be completed during the appointees’ tenure. Resolving longer-term issues might not be completed during that time span, but significant forward movement can be achieved, which places the next appointee closer to achieving the Administration’s desired results.

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