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No I can’t! The pressure of independent politics

By Kim Huynh - 25 August 2016 16

Kimbo shines a light on Barry Drive

‘You’ve got no chance.’, is the advice that politics experts gave me when I told them that I wanted to run for the ACT Legislative Assembly.

‘Don’t do it. You’ll look weak.’, is what my campaign manager and friend said when I proposed writing about exactly how it felt to enter politics as an independent.

Oddly enough, I pretty much agree with them. However, perhaps it’s a common trait among independents that we tend to do the opposite of what we’re told. So here I am, as a freshly announced candidate in the ACT election, setting out the top three reasons for why I’m absolutely sh***ing myself.

Number 3: The pressure of exposure

Being an independent means it’s all about you. It’s your reputation and resources that are on the line. There’s no party platform, apparatus or expertise to draw upon or hide behind.

Your heart, mind and soul are utterly exposed.

One screw up or misfortune could not only end your campaign, but dictate how everyone remembers you and maybe even your family. Always.

Much more probable is the prospect of nobody noticing you. Most of the electorate just want to get on with their day and view campaigners – and politics in general – as getting in the way of that.

So I look at them with good will and anticipation. Most of the time they turn away and shuffle on. Already I’ve come to realise that what can mean so very much to me means almost nothing to everyone else.

Running as an independent is to accept the prospect of feeling like the kid who’s never chosen for sports teams or invited to parties.

Despite having a great deal of support, so far I’ve found politics to be an intensely lonely experience. Maybe it’s just me, but I doubt it.

Number 2: The pressure of campaigning

During a campaign, independents have to be ministers for everything without having staffers or bureaucrats to draw upon for assistance or cover.

Moreover, despite the fact that the chances of any independent winning in the ACT are marginal, people and the media (if one attracts any) immediately put you in the hot seat: ‘What will you do if you hold the balance of power? Are you for or against light rail? What about abortion? Should Canberra become the seventh state of Australia? Who will you make king or queen?

Number 1: The pressure of winning

What if I actually won?

Suddenly the need to have an informed position or persuasive opinion becomes a weighty and direct responsibility. So says the electorate, because of you my pension is shrinking while my living costs are rising. Because of you my child has special learning needs, but has no access to qualified teachers. Because of you we don’t have affordable housing options.

Now that’s some serious pressure. The sort of pressure that can’t be bucked and that leads you to ask whether your shoulders are broad enough, your back strong enough, your hips sturdy enough.

And if you don’t question yourself in this way, your opponents certainly will. Do you have the ticker?

Independents and politicians in general need to have incredible self-belief. But that does not mean obscuring one’s doubts or somehow disregarding all that pressure.

Indeed, my observation of politics over the last decade leads me to believe that one of the most difficult challenges of being a public figure is tempering one’s self-belief with a self-awareness that comes with doubt and that militates against egotism.

The advantages of being an independent relate not so much to the electoral system, but rather the thrill of starting something from scratch and calling it your own. So too there’s satisfaction in being able to say that there are things that are wrong and false that I tried to make right and true.

And despite all the pressure and anxiety, it’s also pretty fun.

Do you have to be crazy or on the verge of it to enter politics, especially as an independent? Have you considered having a go? What’s holding you back? Why are there no independents in the ACT Legislative Assembly? What if anything should change to make it easier for them/Kim?

Kim Huynh is running in the hotly contested electorate of Ginninderra. Check him out at GoKimbo.com.au

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16 Responses to
No I can’t! The pressure of independent politics
dungfungus 8:13 am 29 Aug 16

rommeldog56 said :

pink little birdie said :

Andrew Leigh was/is an academic before entering parliament and in my opinion he is a good local member as well as a good minister or shadow minister in Economic portfolio’s.

Can not comment on Labors Andrew Leigh as an MP as he does not represent my electorate, so will take your advice on that.

However, as Shadow Minister (is it for Finance/Treasury?), he certainly projects as an academic with issues connecting effectively with the often national audience and putting his comments in laymans terms.

As a fellow academic, that sort of disconnect and communication is something that Kim Huynh would do well to avoid.

Andrew Leigh is a prolific writer which must be a “good little earner” for him.
Where does he find the time?

Spiral 7:33 am 29 Aug 16

By reading through Kim’s previous topics, he does come across as the stereotypical academic sh*t stirrer who frequently congratulates himself for being so intelligent and insightful. That makes him similar to many of my friends and probably a great person to have dinner with, but one of the last people I would want in politics.

Kim Huynh 6:16 pm 28 Aug 16

Masquara said :

Kim Huynh said :

Thanks and respect for the tips and support Mordd, d_a and plb. I’m told that there’s been a bit of social media chatter comparing/contrasting K Huynh with J Trudeau and D Trump. Hmmm. Give me a day or two and I’ll have something constructive to say about this. K

I suggest you don’t compare yourself with Justin Trudeau.

Probably prudent to avoid comparisons with both Trudeau and Trump. But bugger it. I’m not much for Trump’s policies, but there’s something to be said for his anti-establishment posture and unvarnished/untrained vocabulary. Let’s make Belco great again! GoKimbo.com.au

Skyring 8:51 am 27 Aug 16

Policies don’t really matter for an independent. Never going to be in a position to implement them.

Positions on various issues are all well and good, but in the end, we elect representatives because they represent us in the official discussion and vote on our behalf.

If a person is thoughtful, articulate, reasonable, caring, and willing to put the people ahead of the party, hell, why wouldn’t I vote for them?

I cannot possibly vote for a candidate who thinks the same way I do, supports all the same things I do, and opposes all the same things I do. They don’t exist. Not for any of us. Not without putting ourselves up for election.

The last thing I want is more party hacks toeing the party line and wasting my money on useless political gestures.

The first thing I want is candidates who will represent the people, not the party. Doesn’t really matter what independents support; they will attract votes and a constituency, and if we get enough independents, we will have a debate where the participants actually contribute and listen to each other, rather than voting along party lines after making canned speeches to empty chambers.

devils_advocate 4:30 pm 26 Aug 16

rommeldog56 said :

As a fellow academic, that sort of disconnect and communication is something that Kim Huynh would do well to avoid.

There’s a suggestion that Trump speaks at the 4th grade level. Short words, simple sentences. Whether that’s stupidity or genius will be seen in November, I suppose.

rommeldog56 2:33 pm 26 Aug 16

pink little birdie said :

Andrew Leigh was/is an academic before entering parliament and in my opinion he is a good local member as well as a good minister or shadow minister in Economic portfolio’s.

Can not comment on Labors Andrew Leigh as an MP as he does not represent my electorate, so will take your advice on that.

However, as Shadow Minister (is it for Finance/Treasury?), he certainly projects as an academic with issues connecting effectively with the often national audience and putting his comments in laymans terms.

As a fellow academic, that sort of disconnect and communication is something that Kim Huynh would do well to avoid.

Masquara 12:44 pm 26 Aug 16

Kim Huynh said :

Thanks and respect for the tips and support Mordd, d_a and plb. I’m told that there’s been a bit of social media chatter comparing/contrasting K Huynh with J Trudeau and D Trump. Hmmm. Give me a day or two and I’ll have something constructive to say about this. K

I suggest you don’t compare yourself with Justin Trudeau.

Kim Huynh 11:30 am 26 Aug 16

Thanks and respect for the tips and support Mordd, d_a and plb. I’m told that there’s been a bit of social media chatter comparing/contrasting K Huynh with J Trudeau and D Trump. Hmmm. Give me a day or two and I’ll have something constructive to say about this. K

devils_advocate 11:08 am 26 Aug 16

pink little birdie said :

devils_advocate said :

I have 3 questions:
1) do you have a policy platform or some particular signature issue
2) have you held paid employment outside of academia
3) you usually approach complex issues from many angles – how are you going to dumb down your opinions so that they are suitable for mass consumption and placard slogans?

In regards to question 2 – why does it matter? the universities in Canberra make up an equal part of Canberra’s economy and so having an academic in our parliament isn’t a bad thing. Particularly having an idea on how to make our city better for that segment of the population. Also will help with the engagement of younger voters.

It matters because many people in the community view professional academics as having theoretical knowledge but no practical life experience. I don’t share that view, but many in the community do, as evidenced by Kim’s response. To be honest I don’t have a fully formed opinion on what type of experience would best equip someone to work in the ACT’s strange mix of state/local government responsibilities. Having a professional thinker might not be the worst thing, provided they had access to good advice, experience and were prepared to listen to it.

pink little birdie 10:05 am 26 Aug 16

devils_advocate said :

I have 3 questions:
1) do you have a policy platform or some particular signature issue
2) have you held paid employment outside of academia
3) you usually approach complex issues from many angles – how are you going to dumb down your opinions so that they are suitable for mass consumption and placard slogans?

In regards to question 2 – why does it matter? the universities in Canberra make up an equal part of Canberra’s economy and so having an academic in our parliament isn’t a bad thing. Particularly having an idea on how to make our city better for that segment of the population. Also will help with the engagement of younger voters.

Andrew Leigh was/is an academic before entering parliament and in my opinion he is a good local member as well as a good minister or shadow minister in Economic portfolio’s.

Best of luck Kim – I will check out your website for your policy positions and see if they align with the local policies I wish to vote for as I am in Gininderra.

devils_advocate 8:41 am 26 Aug 16

Kim, your post clearly pointed to your website, which I definitely looked at, but still the first few posts here are asking what your policies are. You have structured your website in the way that your thought processes work. It’s not really going to cut through given the way people consume information these days.

There are some genuinely good policies in there but you can’t depend on the majority of people to invest the time that’s necessary to get there. Also there are a lot of them. You should pick a maximum of 3 and advocate for them in a simple and compelling way.

I hate to use Trump as an example, because as many disagree with his policies as agree, but if you had to name 3 things he stands for, most would say 1) building a wall between USA and Mexico 2) extreme vetting of individuals from Muslim Countries and 3) reforming federal trade relations.

People clearly want to know what your ideas are but you have to give them a reasonable chance to do so.

Mordd - IndyMedia 11:23 pm 25 Aug 16

That was a really good read. Thanks for sharing some personal aspects of it, I found it very interesting. Wishing you the best of luck with your campaign.

Kim Huynh 8:40 pm 25 Aug 16

devils_advocate and Masquara: I understand that there’s good reason to be skeptical or even cynical about politicians, but have a good look at my website. It answers a lot of your questions and I hope will answer nigh all of them in the coming weeks. Why would you get the sense that I wouldn’t represent constituents Masquara?

I don’t plan to make any money from my campaign. If I get any public funding then some will go as an honorarium to the handful of young people who are helping me out. The rest (most) will go to a Canberra charity. More details on that to come once I sort it out. Thanks for the opportunity to flag it first here on the RiotACT.

Refuting the image of the ivory tower academic is pretty much part of the job nowadays. I understand it’s largely our fault because we don’t always advocate for ourselves well. So here I go. Last year I taught around 800 undergraduates and also had honours and PhD students who I worked with intensely. There’s massive and very real pressure (along with reward) in doing my job. I’m responsible for my students’ intellectual development, and have always tried to be a reasonable role model for them. I’ve also been constantly aware that the decisions that I make can have grave professional and personal consequences for them.

My students are from vastly different ages, backgrounds and identities. I’ve come across and have been – if I do say so myself – pretty successful in trying to understand and help students manage just about every condition, life challenge, ability and disability that you can imagine. And I haven’t even mentioned the administrative nous and sheer effort that’s required to run my courses successfully. So I’ve done a lot more than be an academic, but even if I hadn’t, I reckon I’d be eminently qualified to be a decent politician.

Masquara 6:58 pm 25 Aug 16

Um, any policy positions? Any indication that you will be running for a seat in order to represent constituents? Nope – just the “thrill” (and some $$, no?) This reads as though you are just running a narcissistic exercise, sorry.

devils_advocate 4:09 pm 25 Aug 16

I have 3 questions:
1) do you have a policy platform or some particular signature issue
2) have you held paid employment outside of academia
3) you usually approach complex issues from many angles – how are you going to dumb down your opinions so that they are suitable for mass consumption and placard slogans?

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