March 3, 2009

Politics vs. Statesmanship

It is often lamented that politicians are fickle and unprincipled. They promise one thing in order to get elected and do another when in office to please special interests. They lie, cheat, deceive and elude questions with great skill at times. The word politician has a derogatory connotation--so much that it has become an insult in itself. In fact, this connotation has become a truism and I doubt the need to explain my meaning further.
And yet, there is an interesting phenomena that occurs particularly around the time of presidential elections. From among a broad range of candidates, people choose a favorite politician and find themselves defending that politician by all means. If their politician said this and the media thought it was wrong, they will say their politician meant that and the media is simply taking it out of context or misconstruing his words. This game is known as politics and we all got more than two earfuls of it during the presidential campaigns. We probably even participated in it to some extent, arguing over what he meant by this and what he didn't mean by that. At the same time, we were quick to point out the flaws in the words of politicians we didn't like as evidence that they were incompetent or dishonest.
First of all, I think it very sad that the media has embraced this practice and called it politics. They revel in this sort of bickering and he-said-she-said noise. I see the political pundits constantly searching for any snippet of a sound bite or excerpt that could be controversial in any way. The art of being elusive and avoiding this sort of criticism is known as political correctness. Politicians, under constant threat of being attacked personally because of the way they chose to phrase something, seek more refined, vague, and mostly cryptic ways of speaking their message. This translates into political positions that aren't really positions at all. They do not dare take a stance on important issues for fear of sounding politically incorrect or deemed radical and uncompromising. Their favorite phrases are some of the following: "I am committed to working with....to accomplish....for the good of our country" or "We need to come together on this to find a solution that works for the American people" or "This bill has strong bipartisan support" or "I have experience working with people on both sides of the isle". What do these statements really even mean?! They certainly don't articulate a true position on any certain issue.
This whole mess that the politicians and media have created does nothing more than muddy the waters. The bickering over the meaning and intent of words and phrases distracts from the truly important debates that need to happen in order for people to understand issues and decide what they believe about them. If the water were cleared, I think we would find that many who are continuously at each others' throats about what the other has said about X, are really not in any disagreement at all. Their argument is simply to distract from this fact and maintain the illusion that there are deep ideological differences among key political figures. Generally speaking, there are few, if any, ideological differences, and politics-as-usual masks this fact rather well to the untrained eye.
Gone, it seems, are the days of true statesmanship. The days when a man stood up for what he believed and didn't revel in the mud of personal attacks and semantics. Rather, there was honest and serious intellectual debate about issues that mattered.
For this reason, I breathed a sigh of relief that some of these statesmen may still exist when I saw Ron Paul take on a political pundit today, touching on this very issue. The reader may know of my affinity for Congressman Ron Paul, but let me say that there are certainly others out there like him. I just don't know where they are at the moment. We should seek these good, honest men, and uphold them in the principles that they espouse.
The video is well worth watching and shows perfectly what I mean.


1 comment:

Taylor and Stephanie said...

I think the media takes disputes over stupid things and amplifies them x 1,000,000,000 and takes it to a point where it's just silly banter and makes it "politics" as usual. So I would agree with your post but take a little more of the blame off the politicians and put in on the media. maybe more like 60/40 media/politicians, haha.

I think it's kinda sad because it makes politicians who would normally would voice all their opinions scared to do so for fear of the media twisting, pulling and manipulating what they actually meant leading to the loss of voters that would've voted for them. Should they be afraid? Ideally no. And as much as I see Ron Paul as the least affected by this fear, he too plays the game to a degree. You have to. I guarantee Dr. Paul does not want to be on the media's bad side. That being said, again I think he does a much better job than all the others talking about what really matters.

I have more to say, I'll post again later