People naturally turn to their leaders when tragedies occur. They search for guidance, consolation, and comfort. These services, however, are not ones citizens should request from government officials. This is especially true when emotions are tense and the facts are unclear.
Unless, of course, you seek to establish a semi-religious regime managed by political pastors.
In our republic, our congressional leaders are elected to make laws concerning our society that best serve our interests, not to give quasi-evangelical sermons about “equality”, “freedom” or “hatred.” Our reductionist approach to politics stems from the long-standing American idea that the world’s problems can be traced to original sin.
This isn’t meant to bash on congregations or Christianity. Original sin is a theologically-based idea, and clergymen are expected and encouraged to preach.
But politicians? Not so much.
Politicians should encourage the virtue of republican restraint. Instead, some choose to fan the flames of the reactionary (or anti-reactionary) zeal that turns men into martyrs for political movements.
This is what tyrants and other ambitious leaders want. Working the people into a partisan frenzy can lead some to sacrifice their self-interest for the sake of whatever “big picture” a tyrant decides to paint. History supports this claim. Look at how Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin, Benito Mussolini, and Mao Zedong manipulated their followers. They didn’t get them to commit such atrocities by presenting a long and well-reasoned discourse.
So let it be forever acknowledged on the behalf of the republic, for the good of our own: senators are not saints, and the president is not God.
We should never expect the political class to act with a flattered sense of permanent divinity or moral righteousness. We also should not exalt them; rather, we should encourage their successes and condemn their failures. Anything more is a sign of impending despotism.
Instead, politicians should aim to become better educators. They should explain to members of the public the secular intricacies and political complications involved in major events. For example, they could explain political realities such as: calling out potential voters is a difficult and tricky thing to do, as it could result in lost votes and lost elections. They could also cite precedent by pointing to someone like Sen. Bernie Sanders; then, they could note how he was shouted down, and shuffled off at his own event.
Bernie barely said anything about those protesters’ extreme behavior. Why? He didn’t want to lose votes, which is reasonable enough. Nobody likes losing; to expect anything else is a fantasy.
Conservatives may have a thing or two to learn from Sen. Sanders. We should be supporting more realistic attitudes toward politics. Humans are not angels, and the Oval Office isn’t heaven.