Sometimes, it seems there is a difference between public service and politics, although the two concepts are supposed to be interchangeable. Citizens may support their hardworking elected representatives, but passionately disdain power-hungry dirty politicians. Why do so many politicians have a bad reputation when their job descriptions seem so noble and self-sacrificing? The answer can be a little complicated.
One reason certain politicians have a bad reputation is the election process itself. A life of public service and law making is not an occupation for social introverts, so many candidates for local offices are already notorious overachievers with more than enough self-confidence. Candidates for political office are often very ambitious by nature, and with ambition can come a level of moral and ethical flexibility. Some bad reputations develop because the politician has already had to compromise any number of personal beliefs in order to gain votes or popularity.
There is also the adage that power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Some politicians have a bad reputation because the power of the office has corrupted them in some way. Professional lawmakers, judges and others in position of power over citizens are constantly approached by lobbyists, special interest groups and influential private citizens who all want them to provide favors. Many politicians do have enough integrity to resist corruption, but unfortunately some are not as strong. A politician under significant pressure can make some questionable decisions, which in turn could lead to accusations of wrongdoing or deriving personal benefit from an office.
Historically, there have been numerous examples of dirty politics practiced by equally dirty politicians. Unfortunately for the majority of honest office holders, these incidents often dominate the public media. Consequently, a number of effective politicians have a bad reputation only by association. If one politician is capable of dirty tricks or dereliction of duty, then they may all be equally capable of some wrongdoing. This general perception of politicians becomes even more pronounced during election campaigns, where candidates have the leverage to expose each other's political and personal shortcomings.
Professional lawmaking and public service does require a certain amount of personal and professional sacrifice, since many private sector jobs are more lucrative and less demanding than politics. Sometimes, a politician gets a a bad reputation because he or she is driven people with good intentions, but also has poor managerial skills or a controversial public persona. Some very effective politicians look bad on paper, but are in reality well respected in the political arena.