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What Does a Politician Do?

By Ray Hawk
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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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.

Practical Adult Insights is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
By anon999183 — On Nov 12, 2017

I think that more women politicians are needed to shed a spotlight on issues that affect all women. Any young woman who is outgoing, not afraid to confront the issues, and has passion for what she believes in should consider this potentially rewarding field.

I absolutely agree with you there.

By anon969904 — On Sep 14, 2014

A politician is someone who speaks for the people and gives recommendations and the public is afraid to say what they prefer.

By anon957820 — On Jun 22, 2014

Also, there is a lot of racism going on in today's politics. I'm talking down here in Australia. I can't become a greater politician or political leader just because I do not have any family records in Australia. Just because I'm an immigrant doesn't mean I can't step forward to help do what many others are afraid of: making a change and leading Australia to a better place. This prejudice should also stop, especially since all the Australian party is white. That is it.

By anon956718 — On Jun 15, 2014

This is crap. Why is cannabis still illegal? Why are GMO foods legal?

Don't these correlate with the ''public'' interest? Politicians are money hungry people whose work, in my lifetime, has never resulted in anything positive.

By Rundocuri — On Mar 14, 2014

@heavanet- I agree with you Heavanet, though it is easy for politicians to be either become corrupt or burned out in today's world.

By Heavanet — On Mar 13, 2014

I think that more women politicians are needed to shed a spotlight on issues that affect all women. Any young woman who is outgoing, not afraid to confront the issues, and has passion for what she believes in should consider this potentially rewarding field.

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