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John Campbell

John Campbell (R-Irvine) is an Assemblyman representing the 70th District in Orange County. Mr. Campbell is the Vice-Chairman of the Assembly Budget Committee. He is the only CPA in the California State legislature and recently received a national award as Freshman Republican Legislator of the Year. He represents the cities of Newport Beach, Laguna Beach, Irvine, Costa Mesa, Tustin, Aliso Viejo, Laguna Woods and Lake Forest. He can be reached through his Assembly website and through the website for his California Senate campaign. [go to Campbell index]

Five Rules
A primer for political involvement.
[John Campbell] 8/25/04

I must begin this column with an apology to one of the pastors at the church I attend, Irvine Presbyterian (Irvine, California). Last year, Pastor Kirk Winslow preached a series he called the “Five Rules of Spiritual Life.” As I listened to this excellent and well presented series, I was struck by its simplicity and its veracity for those who are, or wish to be, religiously involved. But I also thought how well the same five rules worked for people who are, or wish to be, politically involved.

Let me make it clear right now that I am not equating religion with politics nor am I mixing them here. I merely think that these particular five rules work for both and I didn’t want to put them out here without the proper credit to the original author and the appropriate disclaimer.

Here are my slightly modified five rules for political involvement:

1) Show up: You cannot affect your government, and arguably have no right to complain about it, if you do not at least show up. The most critical way to show up is to vote in every election, whether the President is running or not. But there can be a lot more to showing up. You can read magazines or listen to the radio or watch TV and become a more informed voter. You can write a check to a candidate or a cause in which you believe because they cannot get their message out without money. And you can tell your friends what you think and get them to vote. You can volunteer someplace or write letters and e-mails when you feel moved by something. There are lots of ways to show up, no matter what your occupation or financial status.

2) Don’t Despair: One of the questions I am most often asked is: “John, as a minority Republican in Sacramento, how do you do it? How can you stand it as Democrats keep passing all these terrible laws around you?” Democracy is not about anyone getting their way. It is about everyone getting their say, and the people collectively getting their way. The most successful people in politics “win” maybe 30% of the time on the issues they care about. And that’s the way it should be. If anyone, including me, gets their way all the time, that is not democracy. That is dictatorship. Politics is more like baseball, where the best hitters in the world get an out seven out of 10 times at bat. So don’t despair. If you “show up” you will get some hits, and help move at least some things in the direction you believe is right.

3) Don’t Leave: One of Winston Churchill’s most famous speeches is when he addressed Harrow School in 1941 and told them “Never give in, never give in, never, never, never, never…” Moving a democracy can take a long time. Newt Gingrich tried for 20 years to get a Republican majority in the House of Representatives before he was successful. Much of politics is about timing. There may be times when you feel like not showing up any more. But you can’t leave, or you may miss the opportunity when all doors are open for you to help make that change as it passes by.

4) There is no perfect: Another Winston Churchill quote is “democracy is the worst form of government except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.” Our system is not perfect, and it never will be. People are not perfect. Politics is far from perfect. But on balance, the system is a good one. And for all its faults, it generally has worked out for the last 200 years or so. The right result isn’t always the first one, but it seems we often get there eventually. Do not expect the perfect. Be content with the good.

5) Find guidance: We all need some guidance and confirmation in politics. You want to know that what you believe is right and good… win, lose or draw. If you are religious, God may provide that for you. If you are not, you may find some secular inspiration. Involvement in public policy should entail more than just satisfying our personal needs and wants. It should involve a pursuit of a greater good. It should be about lasting impact and significance. CRO



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