Politics, in its mucky, grisly, and deplorable nature, is hard to talk about sometimes. From bipartisan views to more abstract debates, there’s always room for confrontation, hurt feelings, and fatal categorization. We’re inclined to place labels on anything and everything. This dumbing down and close mindedness is not only misleading, but also harmful.
Although there’s no doubt that politics may lead to unbearable side affects, as does a minor flu or petty couple fights, the key here is not that we’re engrossing in small discourse for the sake of polemics or defense of our own morals; it’s the idea that in their projection, our political beliefs manifest into ideals placed in context, accosted by counterattacks, and as a result, reflected by a more nuanced and Solomonic take on the sovereignty of human affairs. Through these means, we actively seek to take advantage of politics, and so to revert the situation on its head, we’re no longer victims of the conflicts that ensue from a contentious state craft. It may very well be that when we do get politics right (which does so often happen), it’s transfigured from a corrupt leverage for power to an unshackled persistence for justice.
A friend once told me, “A person’s political views are their generous attempts to improve the world. By definition, a political person is a person trying to do good.”
At first, I objected without hesitation, and therefore without much thinking either. The subjectiveness of her statement made it discreditable. By arguing with semantics and pointing out the fact that her notion lacked any sort of epistemic value whatsoever, I vehemently refused to accept her opinion as fact. Part of me didn’t want to give in to such a rose colored perspective, but I think a greater part of me didn’t know how to harmonize the follies of good natured people.
Taking a look at major political leaders, it’s easy to raise our hands up in the air and lament over the repercussions of their poor decisions. Scandals of inappropriate personal relations as in the Lewinsky scandal or those of disparaging remarks as in the case of Nixon’s tapes, all digestibly engulf the center of our contempt for politics. There are of course many more instances of mishaps and irresponsible actions that a litany of them could probably be compiled. This all goes to show how we’ve been constantly let down by those to whom we once entrusted our confidence.
However, maybe this way of looking at the individual and the debased politics of our times is shortsighted and hypocritical. Charles Krauthammer lends his wisdom as he says that he doesn’t care what a public figure thinks. He cares about what he does. It’s ungrounded to judge a person for their feelings, emotions, and thoughts. What matters, at least according to Krauthammer, is what a person does and the works that they create.
Clinton involved himself in undignified acts and Nixon had xenophobic thoughts, but neither of the two former presidents catalyzed their inner private doings into direct public setbacks. When we solely base these individuals on the progress they’ve made for the nation (strategic fiscal discipline; arms control, respectively), it’s hard to debunk Krauthammer’s thesis.
I still don’t wholeheartedly accept my friend’s opinion to harden it into my own, due to my skepticism and undeterred stance that politics can’t be generalized so easily. But I think her sanguinity is influential to an extent. This is why it’s important now more than ever to regard “talking politics” with a less biased eye, and to educate ourselves on what it means to use politics as a driver of our own histories.