I'm writing and posting this piece simply because I can't sleep, thanks in part to the neighbors in the apartment above me doing their thing. So I've opted to shut out the sound of the bed squeaks by doing a little online reading. As I surfed to find a distraction to my liking, I came across a piece on Yahoo News that motivated me to post a brief piece on the Beyond-The-Spectrum Facebook page. However, what had originally been slated to be a Facebook micro-blog has turned out to be a an unplanned, unstructured late-night rant about the epiphany I got while reading the Yahoo piece about Republican Senator Jeff Flake from Arizona.
The writer's thesis is how Flake represents an anomaly among Congressmen--and by extension--among most politicians in America. The impression I got after reading the piece was not of a Congressman who opposes everything President Obama proposes out of ideological knee-jerk reactionism--thus towing the party line.
Sen. Jeff Flake during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing last January.
The impression that I got of Flake was that he is a thinking man's politician, and not necessarily one of the team-player drones we see bursting the seams of Washington's Beltway.
However, as I continued to read about how Flake actually approaches issues with an open-mind--without the presumed automatic party allegiance and anti-Obama fervor--my attention was diverted to the various comments coming from those right within his own party. As I made note of Flake's apparent level-headed approach to deciding on policy proposals, as expected even before finishing the article, I found what I knew would be there--accusations of "treason" and of "capitulating to Obama." And this brings me to my point. One of the biggest problems with politics in America is the polarization of both the representatives and the individuals (i.e., the voters) who support them. We take up sides as if there are ONLY two sides to every issue. Small minds automatically assume that if you're against one issue or its proponent, them you must be FOR the other (i.e., "If you're against Trump, then you must be liberal," or vice-versa). There is too much reflexive side-choosing, and not enough critical thinking in American politics. Paradoxically, it is this pressure to conform to one ideological camp or the other--much like We The People--that promotes the gridlock in the legislative process, and makes those representatives we vote for to do our bidding so hated. In other words, our elected representatives are merely a reflection of our desires...a reason why politics in Washington hasn't worked in years. We The People don't critically analyze policy positions and issues outside of choosing up ideological sides, so our representative don't. This sets of a schizo-dynamic within our body politic that makes us cheer and hate our elected officials at the same time; they do exactly what we do...and we have the nerve to hate them for it. They choose sides based on party and/or group allegiance, not reasoning and critical analysis. And even in the few rare instances when analysis IS employed, its usually only to see if issues fit within the rubric of our preconceived ideological notions rather than analyzing whether our ideological beliefs fit the rubric of reality.
We as voters should not become angry at the likes of Jeff Flake because he doesn't do our bidding. If anything we should strive to be more like him, and not he like us. If politics were more of a noble profession, and less like a bloodsport--and if we ourselves would allow reason, and not emotion or ideology to guide our passions--there wouldn't be more polarization that forces us to gravitate toward (for whatever questionable reasons) the Donald Trumps of America. No, Flake is hardly perfect. But he does represent a semblance of sanity within the insanity that has come to represent what passes for contemporary politics in America.
And now with the quiet returned to my apartment building, I can head back to bed knowing that politics in America doesn't suck as much as it did before.