Last week, Grand Valley State University students were fortunate enough to have former Michigan legislator, Leon Drolet, come to share his experience working in the Michigan State Capitol.
Drolet served as a state representative from 2001 to 2006 and has since founded the Michigan Taxpayers Alliance, which he Chairs. Many Grand Valley students were shocked by what Leon had to say about our political system.
Leon mentioned, “It takes a certain kind of person to run for office”. He went on to say, “There is a specific set of characteristics that people who run for office tend to exhibit. If you are working towards becoming a doctor, you are probably a kind and compassionate individual, dedicated to helping others.” Leon stated, “A politician’s job is to convince people to vote for them. Someone who wants the power to make decisions for others, without accountability, typically express sociopathic traits."
Leon was not suggesting that all politicians are sociopaths, but instead that in his experience, these are the people best equipped for the job of running for and maintaining office. It became clear that the mission for politicians is not to “win on principle”, but rather to “win reelection”. Winning reelection is determined on one’s ability to earn the most funding from companies and various organizations. This, more times than not, is dependent on the way one votes in the house.
Politicians are incentivized to vote a certain way and when they need to collect more votes for a bill, will go ahead and trade votes with congressmen from different regions. This vicious cycle of corruption within our political system goes further and further and Leon wasted no time exposing the many inconvenient truths of congress.
In conclusion, Leon suggests that the best way to change the system is not through voting or running for office, but rather through shifting something referred to as the “Overton Window”. This refers to what the public allows politicians to get away with. Marijuana legalization would have been unthinkable in the 1940’s, but people have shifted the Overton Window to suggest that this is an acceptable and popular idea.
YAL is dedicated to shifting this window through one-on-one communication, hosting meetings, bringing people to conventions, and executing a wide-range of activism projects each semester. We will continue on our quest of challenging corruption and fighting social injustice on campus. GVSU students are eager to continue shifting the Overton Window.