Selecting Representatives

Elections are the means of selecting representatives in most democracies, but this doesn’t always identify the most appropriate individuals.

In a democratic political system (6.3.2), politicians offer themselves for election – usually with the backing of a political party (6.2.6).  Voters choose politicians for a variety of reasons, as described earlier (, which may be loosely connected to manifesto policies or to a feeling that the candidate is someone like them.  Sometimes, though, politicians only tell people what they are against – and anti-establishment populism can be dangerous (

As an illustration of how an unsuitable candidate can be elected, it would be hard to find a more egregious example than George Santos.  He “ran for office on an embellished biography”; he “is facing dozens of federal charges, including wire fraud, aggravated identity theft and conspiracy to commit offenses against the United States”; and he is an admitted “terrible liar”.  Elections alone, without background checks, are an unsatisfactory way of selecting representatives – and the media cannot be relied upon to make the necessary biographical information available to the public (6.4.3).

In an authoritarian political system (6.3.1), by contrast, there are no politicians as such.  Public servants are appointed by assessing their capabilities to choose the best person for each job, and the public might well accept the process by which public servants have been chosen.

When politicians have served a term of office in a democracy, the public can take their performance (6.3.3) into account before deciding whether to vote again for the same individual (although George Santos might be expelled earlier).

The practical problems, and need for safeguards, in choosing the right politicians to represent the population in any political system are discussed later in this chapter (6.8.2).



This page is intended to form part of Edition 4 of the Patterns of Power series of books.  An archived copy of it is held at https://www.patternsofpower.org/edition04/6512a.htm.