I have written many times that we need more substance in politics. Currently, many tend to lean toward the talking point of the day and a win-at-all-cost motto. Too many times, politicians on both sides of the aisle are more concerned with perception and headlines, instead of actually solving real problems or speaking truth. There is a famous line in the movie, The American President, in which President Andrew Shepard (played by Michael Douglas) states how you win elections, “you make them afraid of something, and telling them who’s to blame for it.” Behind the mask of some pro-choice media members and Democrats in the U.S. Senate, Shepard’s hypothesis seems to be playing out in front of our eyes.
Forget upholding the constitution or dismissing someone based on their qualifications and career record, let’s try to dig dirt on someone’s personal life when they were a teenager. Let’s accuse that individual of the vilest things. If that doesn’t work, let’s paint them as a hard-drinking evil man. After all, the means justify the ends. Thank goodness President Bush and Obama never engaged in youthful immaturity (Bush was an alcoholic and Obama as part of a social club that loved smoking weed).
Grandstanding accusations are nothing new in politics. Adams supporters during the 1800 election printed that electing Jefferson would create a nation where “murder, robbery, rape, adultery and incest will openly be taught and practiced.” Jefferson backers were quoted in saying Adams was “a rageful, lying, warmongering fellow; a repulsive pedant and gross hypocrite who behaved neither like a man nor like a woman but instead possessed a hideous hermaphroditical character.”
Knowing all this, I have always encouraged good people to get involved in politics. We need that. I have always loved Teddy Roosevelt’s famous Man in the Arena speech from 1910. “it is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
After all, decisions made and votes cast are too important to have unworthy public officials in the arena. We live in a republic, not a straight democracy. However, when was the last time you voted in an election that you had two good choices – two good candidates in the arena? The critics may not count, but they do have large megaphones.
Politics is not easy. There is, however, a difference in vetting and defaming. We have fallen into a moralistic society where the media and power hungry politicians serve as the gatekeepers of truth. Public accountability has been replaced by self-serving propaganda. If it fits my agenda than it must be true. Forget facts or actual truth.
As we dive deeper down this rabbit hole, it begs the question, why would a good person with a great reputation, a family, and a career, risk serving when they could be slandered and attacked? Would you want your integrity lied about by some scandalmonger because the mob wants to advance a political agenda? We have senators and cabinet officials who cannot eat dinner with their families without being attacked at a restaurant. Is all that really worth it? The biggest unintentional consequence from our current age may be the future disengagement of good people refusing to serve. If that happens, as President Trump would tweet, it would be “very sad.”