Maybe I have been disappointed too many times, but in talking with a friend recently about the Olympics - and how Usain Bolt was an inspiration - I realized that I now expect the biggest athletes to be doping, cheating or morally failing in some way. Whether it's Alex Rodriguez, Lance Armstrong or Ryan Lochte, big-time athletes in the modern era seem to be as likely to be goats as heroes.
People in public life are no different than athletes. John Edwards, Bill Clinton, Anthony Weiner, Eliot Spitzer, Gordon Fox, John Carnevale and Ray Gallison are all human — and not only imperfect, but clearly flawed in some way. People in politics are not necessarily blessed with athletic abilities but are instead unusually charming, smart or just plain hard-working. Politics attracts some with narcissist tendencies and others who think that their involvement will be lucrative financially. There are — of course — good people in politics just as there are clean athletes in sport, but the rotten ones do garner the headlines and leave their constituents feeling distrustful and disengaged.
This year’s political cycle — particularly in the race for President — is unlikely to change anyone’s mind about politics being only for flawed candidates with outsized egos and personal ambitions. Both major party candidates come into the race with incredibly high “negatives” in public polls and long lists of failings gathered and shared by their opponents. Other than the diehards, more and more Americans seem committed not to a particular candidate, but to holding their collective noses and casting a vote out of patriotic obligation.
What’s a voter to do? We must remain involved locally — local and state government decisions are truly those that affect our every day lives. It’s far more impactful to help a local candidate with good ideas than to spend an afternoon sharing “make America great again” a zillion times on Facebook. Most importantly we must stop romanticizing and glorifying politicians. None of them can solve all our problems and none of them are perfect in any way. Instead of holding up one person as the answer to every question, we should promote ideas and policies that constitute progress. Yes, it is much more difficult to have to learn about the issues and generate ones own ideas, but just saying “I’m with her” is less important than being able to say why. So, be engaged, be educated and celebrate achievements without pushing personas.