I hate politics. Really, I do, and I have worked in government relations for several years now. Politics creates inefficiencies in policy development and creates a polarizing environment for all of those involved. In a perfect world, politics would force opposing ideologies to come together, discuss their policy differences and create compromises that both sides can consider a step in the right direction. As we all know, we do not live in a perfect world. That being said, I have a great appreciation for the U.S. political system; the institution itself.
I always enjoy seeing the President of the United States throw out a first pitch to open the season of the Washington Nationals. It annoys me when people boo the sitting president as he throws out the pitch; we should respect the institution as our head of state, not as the leader of a political party. A few years ago, I was impressed to find myself sitting in a restaurant at lunchtime at a table next to Vice President Joe Biden. I may have praise or criticism of our sitting VP, but my appreciation that the Vice President of the United States was sitting nearby was so much greater. A sitting president or other official carries many hats in their leadership roles, most of which do not involve a great deal of the polarizing politics that we see in the news.
We have a very inclusive political system. It’s not perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but looking at the presidential primary as an example, we have a woman and a Jew in the top two spots of one party, and an African-American and a Cuban-American among the top five spots in another party. I don’t believe that candidates or campaigns are identified simply by their race, religion, gender or other characteristic, but the diversity of our top candidates for president can easily go unnoticed due to the headline shenanigans within the election coverage.
One of the most important components of the American political system that most of us probably take for granted is the peaceful transition of power. I know a lot of people would argue that there is nothing peaceful about U.S. Election Day coverage, but by peaceful, I mean “without violence.” Every four (or eight) years, a new person moves into the White House as the next President of the United States. Often, the new president represents a very different ideology than his predecessor, but the transition from one political leader to the next is done peacefully. There is no bloodshed. There is no (legitimate) rejection of authority, and a new administration takes over to lead for the next four-year term. The same sentiments can be applied to congressional transition of power. I remember in 2011 when Nancy Pelosi handed the speaker’s gavel to John Boehner as a result of the Republicans’ new majority in the House after the 2010 elections. The political environment was quite polarizing at the time, but the Speaker of the House transition was done in a nonviolent fashion. Your politics may not have allowed you to appreciate this transition, but the respect of our political institution and our electoral freedoms carry more weight in the long-term.
2016 and Onward
My appreciation for the political system in the United States is especially relevant now as we see certain candidates leading the polls, candidates with messaging that likely does not represent the sentiments of the majority of Americans. We are in the middle of a trend of continuously lengthening presidential election seasons, which can lead to voter fatigue and negativity of the whole process. I only ask that we all remove the day-to-day ridiculousness of the 2016 election from our minds and look at the American political system as a whole to appreciate all that it represents.
As we head into 2016, whether you are feeling the Bern, had ‘Enough of Trump’ or enjoy a candidate with an exclamation point in their name, let’s appreciate the political system that we have and focus on making the world a better place for everyone.