A politician, in a general sense, is a public official whose primary role is to create or propose laws that further the general interests of the public. In modern democracies, politicians are elected officials put in office by winning the popular vote, who are the primary creators of legislation that becomes national, regional, or local law. Ancient politicians were often orators and public speakers whose primary role was to persuade the public in certain ways of thinking and living, but who often had no official authority over the actions of the public in response to their ideas. Modern-day totalitarian states or those ruled by powerful monarchies and ruling classes often have politicians who serve a primarily symbolic role as well and have no legitimate authority.
In the US, political system politicians are elected or appointed to create legislation at each increasingly smaller division of government, from national down to state and city political officials. Each group proposes and votes into action laws that govern only the territory that it represents, while the executive branch of government sees that such laws are put into force and the judicial branch is responsible for making sure the citizenry complies with these laws. Many other democratic politicians are part of a parliamentary system such as in the UK, where national political parties like the House of Commons have authority that reaches all the way down to the county and city level.
Careers in politics involve a tremendous amount of social networking and negotiating. Whether a politician is a political leader or not, his or her day-to-day activity involves an attempt to reach a consensus of opinions. Within his or her own party politics, he or she must come to agreement on key social issues with his or her colleagues, as well as appease powerful industrial and commercial interests. Politicians build a power base among these groups to see that their views become law over the opposing views of other politicians. Elected politicians must also attempt to satisfy the demands of the voters about how society should govern itself if they intend to remain in power as well as be a popular voice in the public eye.
The outlook of a politician in moving society forward must therefore be focused on several key concerns of any civilization. These include economics and trade, religious views and moral values of the voters they represent, and the security of a society through its emergency services, military forces, and financial solvency. In industrialized societies, this also includes promoting the higher education of the young, funding research into better technology and advances in science, and providing for an adequate health care and medical system for the people.
Ethical issues such as resolving racism and inequality, and protecting individual rights are also concerns to which people look to politicians for guidance. Problems that develop in advanced societies, such as industrial pollution or contentious foreign relations issues, require that a politician be up to date on what is going on around him or her, as well as far away in other societies. The people a politician represents have an expectation that their day-to-day needs and values are well-understood.
While most of these issues have widely varying views among a population as to the proper solutions, a politician is primarily focused on the needs and values of those people who put him or her in office and not opposing political groups. Any successful politician has mastered the art of synthesizing the views of large sections of the society that he or she represents into goals and laws that most will consider favorable. This gives him or her the image of being a strong leader and visionary that the public will keep in office as long as possible.