Decisions, Decisions: Part 2

-Continued from Part 1

In last week’s blog, we highlighted how a public servant’s decisions happen in context, starting with how those decisions affect their constituents as well as their political playing field. This week, we’ll dive deeper.

Impact on Political Resources

As we’ve said before, campaigns are expensive and outside assistance boosts outcomes. Less than 20 percent of even partially self-funded campaigns end up being successful, and the higher the office, the more money it’s going to take to compete.

Just as with any cause, political donations are judged based on merit. Elected officials rely on at least some sort of base for fundraising, and donors pay close attention to the voting patterns and overall behaviors of elected officials.This is true on scale, as well. Large campaign donors are investors in the political process, and like any investor, they seek to minimize risk and track who is most likely to have an impact or influence on their own goals.

Impact on Public Policy Goals

Working in an elected body means dealing with others who have goals which may or may not align with your own. Forwarding a public policy issue on behalf of your community requires fellow elected officials to get on board. The more individuals you have deciding on a single issue, the more work has to be done to convince them it’s the right thing to do.

While many will be willing to back good legislation, regardless, others will ask for changes or for reciprocal support on one of their goals for their constituents. Compromise is a two-way street, and if a public servant is regularly unwilling to support another’s legislation, there’s an increasing likelihood that the second will be disinclined to support the first.

Again, this goes back to the ultimate goal a public servant has in serving their own community. In order to make guarantees to those they represent, public servants have to be open to working with others and choosing to support their measures.

Impact on Self

Lastly, it bears mentioning that occasionally a politician will see all of the aforementioned factors, and still make a choice in opposition to each and every one. Decision-makers are people, and people can have personal beliefs that set them at odds with their job, their obligations, and the environment in which they choose to operate.

It’s not our job as members of the electorate to understand them. Whether we agree or disagree with these beliefs, they become relevant at the ballot.


Putting these decisions into context is an exercise in education for the public and public servants, alike. Not everyone who finds themselves in a decision-making capacity ultimately remains there. Those that stay do so because they develop an understanding of the political playing field, and seek out the help and perspective to keep them moving forward and on track with their priorities.

About the author: Steve Heikkinen serves as the Communications and Marketing Strategist for Grassroots Midwest, Michigan’s only bipartisan political advocacy firm.