This past Tuesday was election day. Rather than deliberate over all of Tuesday’s winners and losers and analyze whether they meet Max Weber’s criteria for a good politician as stated in his essay, Politics as a Vocation (Politik als Beruf,) I will instead highlight one politician who stood apart from the crowd. No, I’m not talking about any newly elected Governor or Senator, I’m talking about the next state legislator of a small district in West Virginia’s eastern panhandle. Sara Blair is a West Virginia University freshman who ran a campaign for public office out of her college dorm room and won. She will be the youngest state lawmaker in the country after trouncing her Democratic challenger by over 30 percentage points.
So why is Ms. Blair different from any of the other swarms of candidates who won on Tuesday? Well, Blair epitomizes the cornerstones of Weber’s piece. She displays passionate commitment to the principles on which she stands by sacrificing her limited time and own financial capital on her campaign. Blair did not have the luxury of being a full-time candidate as election season rolled around like many of her counterparts in races across the country. She remained a full time student at a flagship university. She also contributed $4,000 of her own personal finances to her campaign, undoubtedly a large stake considering she has only had a couple of years to work and accumulate funds. On this matter she was quoted as saying, “Candidates should have some skin in the game, I wanted voters to know I was serious.” Beyond the passion Blair blatantly exudes, she also embodies Weber’s qualification of having a sense of responsibility. An 18-year-old girl takes it upon herself to be a civil servant and agrees to defer time from her expensive university education in order to do so. The willingness to do this comes with a deep feeling of civil duty. Blair is an icon. She inspires political participation among America’s youth and that of the world at large. In an era where the world is seeking a solution for apathetic and politically disengaged young people, a figure like Sara Blair serves as a refreshing reminder that young people can make waves under democratic governments and strive for accountability. Blair is not the first young person to make waves by gracing public office, other youths in this country have taken on the onus of governance before her. We have yet to see how Blair will govern once in office but we can assume she will abide by Weber’s final criterion of a good and ethical politician, a sense of proportion. Why might we assume this? Weber defines proportion as, “the ability to allow realities to impinge on you while maintaining an inner calm and composure” (77). Throughout the election process, this is exactly what Blair has displayed. Even amidst criticism, agism, and calls of question unto her character, Blair has kept a cool head and come out victorious.
Young people are not necessarily less involved in the political process than adults. In fact, youths are more likely to engage in certain displays of political protest and advocacy even if they do tend to lag behind on the voting front. It is my hope that with figureheads like Blair, who so acutely accentuate Weber’s idea of an honest and good politician, that my generation will be able to break away from the norms with regard to voting and political participation at large amongst youths. I know I have tried to do my part as I have previously worked on multiple campaigns for state legislators
I’ll close out this post on a lighter note by highlighting the video that initially got me to become interested in the American political process. Nickelodeon really nailed it with this one.