When starstruck teenagers pine over the latest Hollywood manufactured heartthrob, excusing their bad behaviors and looking for the barest of redemptive qualities, we laugh in the knowledge that such behavior will pass. Yet when it is an adult whose infatuation isn’t with a singer or actor, but a politician, the look is a little less winsome.
No matter what they say, politicians want us to make politics intensely personal. They want us to think that they think of us all the time; they want us to feel a special bond with their family; they want us to feel like we’re in a relationship with them.
Not unlike the talented crooner who convinces every pre-teen girl who buys his latest song that it was, secretly, written for her.
This is done so we will not only excuse their bad behavior, but will actively defend the indefensible.
Our relationship with politicians should be anything but personal. While we should feel personal disgust at the state of our republic, and sense a deeply personal urge to pursue good public policy, that is not the same as being sycophantic cheerleaders – or obedient serfs – for the politicians who temporarily hold positions of power.
All too often, I find people who – while professing deep concern for an issue or cause – will nonetheless bend over backwards to defend politicians who have done nothing more than pay them the barest lip service.
Here’s my rule of thumb: If someone is making excuses for politicians, they are a subject and not a citizen; an apologist, not an activist.
I understand the urge to “maintain a relationship” with a politician. There is something to be said for being friendly with the hired help. But there is a big difference between not wanting the sorry excuse for a waiter spitting in your food, and demanding that your fellow patrons all tip him extravagantly as you walk out the door.
As citizens, we must stop tolerating politicians who tickle our ears but refuse to fight for the values and principles we hold dear. Rather than make excuses for them, we should denounce them as frauds and find someone better.
In our constitutional republic, the citizens – not the politicians – rule supreme. We must not fawn over them like love-sick teenagers, but rather demand they perform to our expectations as our servants.