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A Political Lesson from Verlee Prybyloski ... Worth Remembering

September 13, 2011

The country has not heard of Verlee Prybyloski – at least not in pop culture terms.

But she is one of those rare individuals who understand how and why voters vote the way they do, and our national political leaders would do well to take her political advice now.

With the advent of 24/7 cable news, politics is everywhere, and thus, people are subject to a little bit of this and a little bit of that, politically. They are constantly being told what to think, and what not to think, from both sides of the aisle.

The takeaway is a belief within the culture that people are ‘in-the-know’ politically, and understand why we are in the fix we are. Opinions tossed around by pundits are exhaustive, not very logical, and for the most part wrong.

Politics is not rocket science, and advance degrees don’t help much. Instead, it’s more like chemistry, and the key ingredient is something you don’t hear much about; simple hard work.

Verlee Prybyloski was my political consultant years ago. A law school student, and grassroots organizer in western Pennsylvania for the 1976 presidential bid of Jimmy Carter, Verlee was an experienced political hand.

Her advice was that only through hard work can you can keep a close connection with the people you want to represent.

Verlee said, “A competent legislator must work hard to prevent small problems from becoming big, expensive issues. You can’t do this unless you know the community and understand what the people are thinking.”

As I campaigned and listened to voters, and later represented 75,000 people, it was clear what she meant, and that hard work is the answer to solving most of the problems we face.

She wasn’t talking about working hard to review briefing materials or frantically letting oneself be constantly interviewed on television. She meant working hard to connect with voters so their views become part of your own; the first step to solving problems.

She was right. Successful politics requires that kind of hard work, and the ability to filter out extraneous things that are often associated with the job.

It’s not about compromising principals. It has more to do with understanding that voters simply ask that their elected officials listen to what they have to say, and not allow small problems to become large ones.

This, of course, is at the core of our political problems today.

The deficit, high taxes, government waste and fraud, lack of competence and confidence in our system, and outdated programs that no longer serve the public good, are all examples of where Congress and the White House have let us down.

They kicked the can down the road, as they say, and refused to confront these problems when they were small and manageable.

Voters now cringe at the sight of national leaders making the rounds on television networks to cast blame, or make a big primetime speech about our debt and deficit.

These are not the venues where elected officials should be hard at work; our problems cannot be solved with a television appearance of any kind.

Problems need to be solved early-on, and that takes simple hard work. That’s the essence of what I learned from Verlee Prybyloski.

If only our national leaders had, too.