Until recently, there were some things that people seemed to agree on, principles that have defined not only the American philosophy of civics and government, but the universal values that set the bar for human relations: taking compassion on those in need, giving opportunity to those seeking a better life, protecting those in danger. From as far back as there have been humans on earth there have been guiding principles, or if you will, common denominators of human relations, and even before the concept of politics had been articulated and codified, these principles formed the underpinning of what today we call political discourse. Had this not been the case, then I’m pretty sure we would not have survived as a species. Officially defined as the process of “making decisions that apply to members of a group,” what is politics in essence if not the theories and practices that organize and govern human actions? And yes, also perhaps curb the human tendency toward excesses and extremes?
While admittedly “politicians” have not enjoyed a stellar reputation as moral paragons for quite some time now—and maybe never have– the benevolent concept of politics, that at least we have aspired to, no longer applies today. Our political philosophies, regardless of Party, have become untethered from ethics and morality and supplanted by political expediency: the need to please your base so that you can get re-elected overrides any sense of truth or ethics. As a nation we have become polarized and our political positions have become immoveable by any logic, facts or principles. On a daily basis we see political leaders who have declared support for a particular position suddenly do a 180 degree turn if they get pushback from their “constituents”. And since shame has also gone by the wayside, they simultaneously deny that they have changed their position. Look at Donald Trump on any day of the week. Despite the fact that we have technology that proves the lie, he will continue to lie. This kind of “doublespeak” and the rewriting of history, seem to have been lifted straight out of Orwell’s 1984. Look at Mitch McConnell, as another egregious example. First McConnell warned Trump that declaring a national emergency over the funding of his famous wall “would precipitate a civil war in the GOP” and then a day or two later he not only caved in to Trump’s decision to declare the emergency after all, but McConnell the lapdog, was the one who had to announce the decision to the world on the Senate floor.
Having left the days of benevolent politics behind, today we’re instead living through a time of cult leadership. No matter how blatant Trump’s lies, or the inefficiency and discontinuity created by a revolving door cabinet, Trump’s supporters, roughly 35% of the American people, openly state that, there is “nothing he could do to weaken their support of him” (including, as he has himself observed, committing murder in broad daylight). These are the attributes of a political cult.
Numerous mental health experts have declared that “Donald Trump fits the stereotypical profile of a cult leader. His followers fit the model as well. Many of them, ….sound like people who have been indoctrinated into a totalistic mindset.”
This being the case, in the absence of any willingness of that 35% to seriously consider facts and weigh their merit, what is the purpose of writing about politics? The political parties and their adherents being so far apart, no one will be swayed. It is truly ironic that a man widely considered to be inarticulate, under-educated and uninformed (and perhaps downright unintelligent) has coined a concept and a term that will no doubt outlive him: “fake news.” The concept of fake news bypasses rationality because it disregards facts, even when they come from the apposite government agencies such as the intelligence community, the Department of Justice, the FBI—in short, all those agencies whose very reason for being is to provide the information that may lead to rational and efficacious decisions and policies in government. Instead, nowadays a fact is interpreted through the lens of partisanship, and morality and ethics lose out to political expediency, to pleasing the base.
It has become useless to engage in a political debate since disagreement leads not to a civil counter-argument, but unleashes a torrent of foul personal attacks and rage. And rage there is. Rage at immigrants, at those of a different religion, at those of a different sexual orientation, at the opposition Party, at believers in climate change, and so on and on. Writing about politics today seems to be a futile undertaking, a cry into the wind. No one is listening, instead we’re listening to the voices inside our own heads, put there by politicians without any moral anchors.