Stop Rewarding Politicians for Just Winning Elections

Ruth Buffalo celebrates after being sworn in Dec. 3 to serve in the North Dakota House of Representatives. Lea Black Photography / Special to The Forum

The North Dakota Women’s Network has announced their “woman of the year” award recipient.

It’s state Rep. Ruth Buffalo, who is just months into her tenure in elected office and completed a legislative session in which her accomplishments were, if we’re being generous, quite modest.

But the left in North Dakota – which very much includes the NDWN, a group that isn’t likely to ever honor a conservative woman – has tapped Buffalo as a rising star and so she gets the plaudits.

My question, for the purposes of this post, is why we spend so much time rewarding politicians for just winning elections?

It happens on the international stage. Remember when Barack Obama won a Nobel Peace Prize just months after getting elected?

It happens locally too. When Heidi Heitkamp won election to the U.S. Senate in 2012 the Fargo Forum named her their person of the year. At that point she hadn’t held elected office in more than a decade. All she’d done, recently, was win an election.

In 2014 the NDWN named former state lawmaker Kylie Oversen, then only halfway through her first and only term in office, their “woman of the year.”

Earlier this year the Fargo Forum named Kevin Cramer their “person of the year” after defeating Heitkamp in the 2018 U.S. Senate election.

Why are we doing this?

None of these politicians really earned these honors.

There is always a lot of griping about the election cycles which seem to never really end. People talk about politicians who seem preoccupied about the next election to the point where actual policy making takes a back seat.

Do you think it might be because so many of us in the public treat elections as the whole point of the political exercise?

Winning elections is important. In the American system of government you don’t get to govern if you don’t win an election. But winning an election isn’t the goal. It’s a first step.

Implementing sound public policy is the goal.

How about we start rewarding politicians when they do something great after they’re elected, not upon getting elected before they’ve had a chance to do anything?

At the very least, can we let a politician complete even one term in the office they’ve been elected to before we start showering them with awards?

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and host of the Plain Talk Podcast which you can subscribe to by clicking here.

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