Politics is fundamentally a people business, and we need good people, talented people, people of ideas and values and commitment to keep volunteering for public life. The health of our democracy depends on it. And right now good people are burning out and ending their political careers early, not because they lack commitment but because the rigours and demands have increased exponentially, particularly over the past decade.
From my vantage point in the system, but also outside it, I can feel the strain in it, which is stretched the tightest it has been in my 20 years of ringside observation. So we need to find voices prepared to tell the truth about contemporary politics. I decided that if most people inside the system couldn’t speak candidly, then I would do what big corporations do when they fear they are losing good people: I’d conduct some exit interviews, and share the impressions.
If good people can’t sustain themselves in public life because it is just too punishing and zero sum—if the opportunity cost of the life of public service is just too high, if a life in politics just doesn’t feel worth the personal sacrifices that are made—then we have a serious problem. The consequences of that really are too dire to contemplate.