I was particularly struck by several of the lines in the second reading (St. Paul to the Philippians 3:17-4:1) at Mass this weekend. His words seem tailor-made for this strange and caustic political season:
For many, as I have often told you and now tell you even in tears, conduct themselves as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their end is their destruction. Their God is their stomach; their glory is their “shame.” Their minds are occupied with earthly things.
I have always disliked politics. I seem to be disliking them a lot more this year. I couldn’t even bear to have any of the “real” candidates illustrate this post. Red and blue, it’s all noise and egos. It is all politicians and no statesmen. And furthermore these politicians aren’t even very good at being politicians.
A talented politician knows how to get things done, how to talk to people without insulting or demonizing them. A true politician knows that there is give and take. Everyone, including those already in office, seems to have lost the ability to collaborate like adults. In fact, we seem to have misplaced the adults altogether. Politics as now practiced appear to be either a reality show or a video game. It certainly isn’t a conversation among the grownups. The words Banana Republic have crossed my mind more than once lately.
None of the above thoughts are original, and they certainly appear often enough in the press; I wouldn’t even have mentioned them – there are far better political commentators than I – if it weren’t for Sunday’s readings.
What I haven’t seen mentioned anywhere, though, are my thoughts on elections in general. Jane Austen would put them like this:
It is a truth universally acknowledged that no one who wants to be president, should be president. The president should be dragged kicking and screaming into the public arena. The ideal candidate should have no desire for the office, be heartily aware of all his/her shortcomings and only want to fix things as fast as possible and go home. He/She should be more inclined to retreat to a Room of Tears after the election rather than a victory party. The victor should look to Cincinnatus for an example.
We can follow that thought with this: It is a truth universally acknowledged that the person with the skills to get elected as president doesn’t have the skills to do the job. Running for office and being president are two distinctly different skill sets, and usually they are not found in the same person. Unfortunately, in the ego-laden reality-game atmosphere of politics, we tend to discount the quiet, less flashy, less charismatic candidates who might actually have the talent and brains for the job. You would think that we would learn from our mistakes, but we never do.
Our punishment will be that we will get the president we deserve.