The understatement of forever, probably: Politics is complicated. It’s hard to keep the issues straight, and legislation that throws in all sorts of details that contradict the original issue can be downright impossible to sort out. This is why we depend on skilled, educated, compassionate leaders to do it for us. And choosing the right candidate with the right skill set to cast your vote for can be tricky, to say the least. Because people are just as complicated as their politics.
People are their politics, in fact.
Which makes it all the more important to choose leaders whose standards are as just as possible.
So...how do you do that?
I’ve noticed that people don’t necessarily vote for a candidate because they see someone who will do a proper job, who has a history of being responsible and concerned about the people they lead. They often vote for a candidate whose beliefs most resemble theirs. Because if decisions are going to be made about issues I believe in or feel very strongly about, why would I vote for someone who doesn’t believe the same way? On some instinctual level, it wouldn’t make sense to. State and local candidates may be more personally knowable; higher-level candidates may be more remote, but might reflect my regional values. And high-level federal leaders may have histories in my community, which resonates with me and gives me a presumption of common beliefs and ideals. It may stay within my party, but more likely than not, one candidate aligns more closely with my personal world view, and the principles I find most important in my leaders. So essentially, I’m not just looking for a leader in my candidate. I’m also looking for a mirror.
I want that person to be a reflection of myself.
Seems reasonable, right?
But reflections are tricky. Some aspects are more important than others, which means there have to be points that I’m willing to overlook, or compromise on. When it comes to choosing a candidate, most of these are political, and I’m certainly willing to give-and-take as necessary, to an extent. That’s the heart of compromise. And yes, there are bound to be social points that have to be held onto loosely; my candidates are going to be better off financially than me, no doubt, and they’ll have a different social station because of that. I’ll have to give them those. I also have to allow that my chosen candidate has worked, studied, and prepared for the role they’re asking me to put them in. Those are beyond my control, but should be well-documented in their history of public service.
But the points on which I should be entirely unwilling to compromise? Their integrity, their respect for others, their compassion and consideration, no matter what they're trying to achieve. These are all foundational personal beliefs that should inform my life and my world view, and all of them are concerned with the treatment of other people, and the decency my candidates conducts themselves with. I should recognize in them behaviors that I will and will not tolerate in my own personal interactions with others—standards I hold myself to that do not waver in the face of political concerns.
I do realize we’re talking about politicians here...
But still. There’s integrity to be found in greater amounts than what we see in 2018. And where reflections of ourselves in our leaders are concerned, the Trump administration and its surrounding effect on majority leadership makes it feel like the mirror has shattered.
What do I mean by this?
If figureheads in the evangelical community can see a president willing to demean, deride, and mislead his fellow Americans as their top-most leader but are willing to excuse him for it because he’s promised them he’ll bring conservative values back to America in the interest of making it "great again", all the while knowing that he’s cheated on his wife, openly displays his racism and white nationalist leanings, and has torn families apart for the sake of so-called immigration reform, what does that say about their own personal beliefs, their own integrity and decency? If the GOP House and Senate members can watch him play fast and loose with executive power and the Constitution, propelled by his proprietary blend of populism, endangering and diminishing the lives of so many vulnerable groups, and do nothing to stop him—or, worse yet, support his destructive agenda—because they know their own agendas are at risk, what does that say about their own ability to be effective, responsible leaders? And more importantly, what does it say about their humanity?
And if all of this can be true and have zero impact on his core supporters who continue to believe his empty promises of helping his fellow citizens all along the trail, even after they see his true colors, then what does that say about them?
It says to me that when some people look for reflections of themselves in their leaders, integrity and decency are negotiable, even if it means their own integrity and decency are on the bargaining table, too.
As long they’ve been promised something in the deal.