“He Doesn’t Even Shop Here”
A Light Introduction to a Life of Politics
Disclaimer: Kevin McCarthy, who serves as the representative of California’s 23rd district in the House of Representatives, is my dad. I am not a registered member of any political party nor do I serve in any political role. I have obscured the names in social media posts to protect the privacy of the individuals therein.
My dad serves as the Majority Leader in the United States House of Representatives. My dad’s position has given me a unique vantage point from which to observe politics and the policymaking process, and some of these insights could prove useful in considering our current political climate. I’ve undoubtedly benefitted from my proximity to this political power and I’ve accordingly kept quiet to avoid others thinking that I’m preaching atop a mountain of privilege.
I’ve always steered away from publicity: I’m fairly shy, I’m not particularly interesting, and I don’t yearn for higher office. You’ll recognize me as the person who’s usually cropped out of photos in the paper (to my delight).
I’ve decided to ignore my dislike for public statements after observing an interesting display of civic censure of my dad for celebrating my sister’s twenty-first birthday out of town, which began with this post:
In all honesty, I found the first post pretty hilarious. I’ve only seen him drink alcohol three times in my entire life, so to imagine him hammered on a Tuesday night is funny. The post has since been edited, so you won’t be able to enjoy the caption like I did if you came across it on Facebook. You will, however, find examples of the current political sentiment and a fascinating perception of public service.
The intensity on display in the comments above isn’t surprising: Pew Research reported that nearly half of Americans registered as a member of a political party say that the opposing party makes them “afraid.” Even more concerning, those polled tend to have strong feelings about the character of their political rivals.
What did surprise me was the consensus around what we as a constituency can and should expect from our public servants:
Public servants must never leave their district and can only buy goods from stores within the borders of the region that they represent.
Public servants (and their families) are always on the clock. They’re stealing time from you when they’re at a family birthday, funeral, doctor appointment, or sleeping.
Is this really what we want out of representatives? Should we really vote based on where a candidate shops? Should we recall members who spend a weekend away from home for a celebration?
No, we shouldn’t do that. I don’t think that the posters would agree with that litmus test for politicians either. In fact, that position would only elect the wealthiest amongst us and glorifies consumerism if taken to its logical conclusion. Unless the posters genuinely feel that this defines their preferences in political candidates, there’s something else going on here. Based on my time adjacent to the guy in the picture, my educated guess is that folks start with their dislike for a person in question and then work towards finding reasons that would justify their sincere distaste for that person.
This article isn’t meant to be some impassioned defense of my dad’s performance in office or his political principles: that’s his job. I’m writing this article because I think that we can do better. Why is politics a war on personality rather than a consideration of particular policies? Why must we only idolize or demonize our representatives? Why this?
The folks who happened to comment and/or make the post have demonstrated an interest in their community and improving the outcomes of their fellow community members. The representative in that picture, contrary to what some of the posters might have suggested, shares that deep love for and commitment to his community.
We have an opportunity to speak a new sense of American-ness into existence. Love of community, regardless of the policy mechanisms that promote the well being of that community, can be what brings every single American soul to the table. At a time when political parties seem to have stronger views about the opposing party rather than what defines and unites their own caucus, why should we as a society not define a vision of what our country ought to strive for?
I’m not pretending that political factions are going to disappear, nor do I hope that they disappear. My only wish is that we can make these political differences work for all of us, just as James Madison suggested. If we hope to create a government that serves the interests of every American, then we should be striving to articulate something that ties us all together.
We can create a society that truly is for all the people and by all the people, but it’s going to take a concerted effort on every American’s part to treat their fellow citizens as equals deserving of respect and opportunity.
This message has been brought to you by another optimistic American. I’d rather be naive than cede our political arena to cynicism’s self-fulfilling prophecy.