February 11, 2015
Now, more than ever, the subject of the political class creation and integrity (regardless of doctrinal orientation) becomes more than urgent.
What does it mean “political class”? Does the Romanian state have an oriented vision in this regard, to take care for future generations? What is the role of civil society in this regard? But the role of the academic environment? But the role of political parties? Are these actors interconnected?
Can we talk about “politician” as a profession?
For a political class with the capacity to regenerate and provide continuity in defending the national interest, there is necessary a national mechanism that includes state universities, political parties and civil society representatives.
For example, the American model has more pillars in supporting the formation of a political class:
On the one hand we have the elitist parties’ tradition and their role in selecting and training the next generation of political leaders.
The background must have sets of values and principles with a strong sense of patriotism, or love for country, in all its manifestations.
The education system must take into account this aspect and the responsibility to train professionals. In all areas of our society. Why not even policy professionals?
The role of the party in the selection and training processes interferes on many levels. The selection process can be realized before or after their academic stage. The academic study is the basis from which one can start as a professional, both in terms of academic specialization in different areas, and in that explicit profession of politician.
A role in the entire process has also the electoral system, the party ideology and doctrine.
Another aspect is how are the roles divided and defined in the training process. There is a difference. On the one hand we have wide acceptance, the entire political class, and on the other hand we have major sectoral areas, namely government and parliament. In the parliamentary sector we must take into account the electoral legal system and the regional distribution. In both areas the party has an important role in the appointment process.
The creation of the political class does not refer specifically to educating groups of people, but rather represents a selection process whose purpose is a mirror of their own companies.
Education or training, in the sense of endowment with certain knowledge and skills, is closely related to the educational system and the academic programs quality, and their correlation with the real needs of society. Professional background is very important in defining roles in the political process; the Parliament professionalization is one of the important discussions today in Romania.
The selection based on merit and professional skills is presented as generating effective administrative elites, whose efforts have supported large public systems in China and ancient India, Middle East and pre-Columbian America, and in ancient Rome. In Islamic regimes, the sultan slaves were prepared and included in the imperial administrative elite; the selection criteria were not seriously blocked by considerations of birth or family status. Instead, almost everywhere in Europe, the birth established one’s status in life and generated a smaller talent reservoir. In the Far East, the Confucian principle that people are unequal and their merit determine their social status, has helped in legitimating a system based on competition, which hadn’t allowed perpetuating a bureaucratic elite. However, in each generation there were people who came from respectable old families, whose traditions have helped in public service continuity, stability and assimilative capacity of the Chinese bureaucracy.
In West, the historians have noted the proliferation of modern non-hereditary elites in each field of activity. Those with birth advantages must validate their credentials through achievements. But elitism in a domain does not provide the ability to shape public policy. Special skills and needed perspectives to negotiate, enforce and legitimate public efforts require special attention. With the development of political vocation, the career opportunity for “poor men” appeared in public life, as Weber mentioned. The success in politics, both as a profession and as a secondary career correlated with success in civilian life, became possible through a combination of merit, luck, tactics, sponsorship and perseverance.
Who undertakes the required selection process for the formation of a coherent political class? How is the purpose defined?
Usually the selection process is conducted by political parties in terms of some objectives: electoral success, competitiveness in the political process. This can be improved according to the political system of the country that wants to apply it.
The American models and policies in this area start from the assumption that candidates’ selection is one of the key tasks undertaken by parties in modern democracies.
Institutional processes rather than positions are the central point of other current studies. Special attention is paid for the manner people are selected and trained for a career involving political party activities, decision-makins process, official policy or legislative activity. Taking into account that the induction and progression of politics are increasingly bureaucratized, interviewing techniques facilitated the systemic research.
A dimension that deserves special attention is the way to attract young people to political engagement, in particular electoral. Early socialization policy is relevant for the study of the political class only to the extent that affects the chances and desire to enter specific roles in politics. Therefore, most of the studies about politicians aim their early socialization. It is often mistaken because is considered that their previous experiences have minor share in determining their adult perspective.
In the American society we find a number of items regarding the issues exposed in the above rows. It should be noted that there is an integrated view of all elements of training, in the sense that the actors involved in this process complete their work in a constructive way.
For example, we have selected different relevant platforms in the training process. First, we note the universities’ interest to implement consistent internship programs in collaboration with state institutions, with high profile organizations and leading officials, to provide courses and summer internships to students interested in politics, government and public administration. Such a program is run by Harvard University, and for 2015 includes internships in the central public administration, local or national institutions, research centers and media (Projects Progress, Boston Public Schools, CNN – situation room, congresswoman Elise Stefan, Governor Charlie Baker, Los Angeles Times, Mayor Marty Walsh, Boston, National Journal, National Law Journal, New York Mayor’s office on immigration, the State Department of Health in New York, the Partnership for Public Service, Pew Research Center, Senator Eric Lesser, Vox, etc.).
Another important aspect is the fact that the University is involved throughout the program, and the partnerships with those institutions allow experts participation to ensure learning and development of skills in real mode. The internship contract contains details including the recommended program for the beneficiary.
Secondly, we can identify some centers, institutes, which assume this training role. A representative of such a complex activity is JSA Summer Programs, a center that is dedicated to helping students succeed in a modern, democratic society. The frame is civic education. JSA offers students strong knowledge and perspectives on how the American government system works, how it was created and what are the processes for elaborating laws and electing leaders. By describing this framework, this objective, students will be able to better understand the society they live in, that will probably have a stake in their future. This allows them to listen and talk to those who run US today, and to share their opinions with other students who are interested in shaping America’s future.
Preparation includes a rigorous academic curriculum at college level. But it is also multi-faceted; it places the student in unique environments where it will face questions, activities and tasks that put leadership among all others. It challenges the students to become leaders in any professional or study field they choose to follow. The results – growth, confidence, training and friendship among students – are truly remarkable; they are learned and used throughout life.
In their programs, the most prominent and regular partners are Stanford University, Georgetown University, Princeton University, University of Virginia, these summer schools are organized using these large centers and universities. This is another type of training commonly used in the United States and it enjoys a high degree of interest and success. Founded in the US, 80 years ago, the JSA program currently has over 500,000 participants and is a unique organization in the world in terms of educating young people about the opportunities, challenges and leadership responsibilities in a democratic society.
More than learning about issues and forming opinions, people in a sound democracy must be involved and take action. JSA do more than educating and preparing students. JSA provokes the students to “be the people”, to be actively involved in their communities. Besides Summer School, JSA sponsors a Summer Institute on political and current issues, academic conventions and conferences.
And for completing the picture on the mechanisms of formation the political class in USA, we add a leadership program developed at Michigan State University. It recruits, trains and inspires future political leaders, preparing them with vision, commitment and skills for effective governance. In a multi-partisan learning environment, a diverse group of 24 people from the entire state is involved in a public policy and leadership curriculum. A unique concept not only in Michigan, but also nationwide, this weekend program for ten months, incorporates political practice, policy analysis and development process, personal leadership and effective governance. Since its inception in 1992, approximately 500 graduates MPLP used their acquired skills and relationships in their communities as candidates for official positions, government officials and activists.
Here are just a few aspects of a system model for political class training, with a background with sound principles of professionalism, competitiveness, respect, responsibility and vision.
The necessity of implementing such an integrated system is more than urgent and I think it can be climbed to the rank of top priority. Do not forget that the “basic political goods” of a political party are the people and public policy. They legitimize and empower organizations to represent the citizens, the electors. But public policies are designed, accepted, undertaken and implemented by people. Both people and public policies generated by parties determine, one way or another, the future of the nation they represent.
Adrian Marius Dobre