Friday, May 11, 2018

The Price of Politics

Until yesterday, all I knew about Kevin Kamenetz came from listening to one interview on the Elevate Maryland podcast. As I read the sad news yesterday of his sudden death and began to read about his life, I realized I have a lot of catching up to do.

Honestly, I was disappointed by Kamenetz after listening to the podcast. He seemed too prepared with prepackaged answers, with little time to stop and think a new thought. His performance was more than polished. It felt as though he had developed a veneer as hard and shiny as many layers of polished lacquer. He had an admirable record. He brought along suitable talking points.

But there was no sense of thoughtfulness. Of intellectual flexibility or even just a tiny spark of vulnerability. None.

Politics changes people. I have noticed this even amongst my friends and acquaintances. It’s not an easy world and putting up an outer shell of self-protection is often the route that many take in self-defense. When I recently talked to candidates for the Democratic Central Committee on the HoCo Forward Slate, the differences were notable between those who were experienced and those who were new to the field.

The newcomers were much more likely to speak candidly and share their own opinions. The experienced candidates took more time, chose words carefully, used qualifiers, tried to deflect, push the discussion somewhere else. They fell back on approved talking points. I found the differences a bit alarming.

By all accounts Mr. Kamenetz worked long and hard in the service of his community and the value of his career should not be judged by one appearance on a local podcast. I wonder if the manner I found so off-putting was the result of years of surviving the rough and tumble world of politics and public service.

One thing I cannot shake from my mind today, When asked if he had made any mistakes, or felt any regret about choices he had made in his career, Kamenetz demurred. He felt good about all his choices and accomplishments, he countered. Finally, when pressed, he allowed as how he wished he had spent more time with his sons when they were younger.

Those words are the first thing I thought of when I heard the news of his untimely death.

To all my friends who are running for office: please remember his words. When you consider how much of yourself you are willing to give to public service, don’t forget that there are some things that you can never get back.

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