I don’t think I’m cut out to be a politician. Not that anyone was asking, but I should probably expound.

Derek Wolfe

Over the past several weeks, I had been working on running for co-editorial page editor of this newspaper. The preparation for the election included meeting with nearly all the top-level editors of the paper, potential editors for next year and other members involved at the paper in order to formulate future ideas and receive feedback. All of this culminated in a two-hour question-and-answer session, which occurred last Friday evening.

During this process, I met more fellow colleagues — trying to sound professional, here — than I had in the past two years. And by all means, it was highly productive and fun. I also got to know some of the younger members of the opinion section who are working to join the editorial board and possibly become editors. That is particularly exciting. My counterpart, Aarica Marsh, and I were able to develop our vision for the opinion section by incorporating aspects of what makes the other sections successful and work on talking points for the election. And for those wondering at home, we won — yes, the election was uncontested, but still, a victory is a victory. I couldn’t be more enthused to lead this section.

There is nothing inherently wrong with what I described. We took all the right and necessary steps to prepare for a successful year. However, while it’s hard to precisely define it, there is something slightly disingenuous about the election process.

What I mean by this is that whenever I would introduce myself to someone new on staff I worried about it coming off to the person like, “I’m introducing myself to you only because I’m running and want your support.” The reality is I enjoy meeting new people, but there was always the concern that the looming election blurred my intentions — that I was being fake.

There is no denying that this process accelerated, even encouraged, a social process, which in the long term is beneficial for when we hire an edit staff and familiarity with one another has been established. But, I guess what I’m saying is that I’m uncomfortable engaging in a relationship where only I have something to gain in the short term — in this case, winning an election. I can’t even imagine how it would be if Aarica and I ran against someone else.

While elections are necessary for our great democracy, the dynamics that accompany them are incredibly complicated and overall unhealthy. Through my anecdotal evidence alone, it’s clear that it’s difficult to gauge one’s true motivations. And this isn’t just a Daily problem. It’s a societal problem. And it affects everything and everyone from high school youth groups — something I also have experience with — to the presidential election.

Who can you trust? Which candidate cared more about me? Both questions, in a society where 99.9 percent of people aren’t trained in psychoanalysis, are tough to answer.

Take the 2014 midterm elections as another example where the answers of those questions are risked. We gambled on who “meant it” more. Across the country, hundreds of candidates, most notably for the U.S. House of Representatives and gubernatorial races, were enthusiastically making bold claims and promises on how they could improve my life as an American citizen.

Nov. 1, I attended a Democratic rally at Wayne State University where President Barack Obama spoke to endorse then-candidates Gary Peters and Mark Schauer. During his speech, Obama said, “You have the chance to choose leaders that don’t put political ideology first, that don’t put just winning an election first — they put you first.”

That is classic election rhetoric. Of course, I want to believe that Gary Peters does put me first. But, especially with national and statewide elections, he was also fighting for his career. He’s trying to get paid. That’s his number one goal.

The Daily is a bit different. If you saw how much a writer gets paid per article you’d know money isn’t a motivator. I’m sure this is also the case for other student groups across campus.

But for me, especially when I don’t know the candidate very well, elections automatically generate a sense of skepticism because it’s all talk and no walk — sorry for the cliché.

I’m excited that election season is over.

It’s time to get to work. I want to prove I’m a man of my word.

Hopefully our representatives will do the same.

Derek Wolfe can be reached at dewolfe@umich.edu.

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