The messy necessity of politics
I hear it said (usually by people I disagree with): "Oh that's just politics" or, "Oh, they are just politicizing that issue." But, particularly in a two-party system of governing (which doesn't count "independents" like me), attempting to persuade, convince, influence, sway opinion, and achieve action consensus equals politics — a messy necessity.
Politics in America is like oxygen in the air that the American community breathes. It may be pure, crisp, healthy air, or it might be smoky, polluted, or unpleasant...but the alternative of duels with pistols, assassination, torture, or other brutality is obviously worse. Some people say American politics lately is hopelessly divided, destructive, polarized, etc. — I say it was just as vicious as when Adams and Jefferson were publishing vicious diatribes about each other early in American history, or when Hamilton died in a duel with Aaron Burr.
Jack Kemp wisely said, "The purpose of politics is not to defeat your opponent as much as it is to provide superior leadership and better ideas than the opposition."
...and, I think he would agree, at a price that is affordable.
Human beings rarely behave logically, rationally, civilly, and politely when it comes to political issues. The more emotionally charged and consequential the issue — the more difficult, or perhaps impossible, is the task of "fair" rational compromise. It is all the more difficult if not enough time is spent really listening to the other side. Such dialogue and conversation must be repeated often over time, on many occasions, and then debated again and again. Impatience becomes our foe but an inevitable atmosphere. Hyperbole, demonizing, insulting, and vitriol are to be expected — even normal, but they also endanger the air for compromise.
It is particularly human and predictable when leaders stoop repeatedly into insulting, degrading, dismissing, blaming, scolding, and shaming verbal behaviors. There are few Lincolns. When stubborn opposition leaders won't budge, people begin to wish and hope for a benevolent dictator whose good and "perfect" decisions seem to take our anxieties, antipathies, and uncertainties away. Others throw up their hands in disgust and apathy as they ignore the arena that Hubert Humphrey called "the politics of joy."
I have studied human nature professionally for over 50 years as a physician, psychiatrist, psychoanalyst, and now fledgling writer. I conclude that the biggest mistake made quite sincerely and often innocently by liberal progressives is the assumption that man is a rational animal who is almost perfectible by education, "historical progress, and rational philosophy — like that of John Dewey.
As Freud once put it, "the voice of the intellect is a soft one, but it does not rest until it has gained a hearing." In political discussions, one encounters the emotional, greedy, power-hungry, acquisitive, desperately dependent, sinful, and even the animal-based "tooth and claw" element of human nature.
Searches for power, dependency, and control are rampant without a mature leader of the group, and wise leaders are few and far between. I believe that the dreadful and wonderful aspect of human beings being created in God's image, and his lively participation with us as a part of his creation...is freedom — joyous or terrible as the freedom to choose implies.
The gift of politicians like JFK and Ronald Reagan was that they seemed to grasp that effective leadership must speak to the soft but powerful voice of reason towards "the good." They harnessed the large American group's collective emotion to support their direction of leadership. Ever since our loss in Vietnam, our invasion of Iraq, and our refusal to honor the red line in Assad's Syria, Americans deeply doubt our leaders.
The leader needed for 2024 needs to know our system thoroughly and its current problems. He needs to get things done without dictating, bullying, or empty playing to dependent yearnings for free stuff.
Image via Picryl.