If A Politician And A Lawyer Were Drowning And You Had To Choose…

September 5, 2012 — Leave a comment

Would you go to a movie or have lunch? I know. Lame.

GK Chesterton

If the erudite G.K. Chesterton doesn’t mind, I’d like to tweak one of his quotes. “The word “good” has many meanings. For example, if a man were to hurl a water balloon at a politician at a range of one hundred yards, and strike him, I should call him a good shot, but not necessarily a good man.”

And rightly so. Disagreements aren’t solved by hurling water balloons or invectives––but by reasoned discourse and debate. Herein lies the problem. As citizens, who do we believe in the political arena?

As someone who has always admired great leaders, it saddens me to say that most politicians have limited credibility. And without credibility, how does one typically lead?

Poorly.

With Congress’ approval rating at an all-time low––Gallup, 10%––one has to wonder what magic elixir will will ever drive the rating higher. It’s quite frustrating and makes it particularly difficult for the electorate to be well-informed.

I hope my generalization is not unfair. But the heated rhetoric during this time of party conventions reminds me that I’m likely spot-on. If politicians’ answers to a particular policy question or their interpretation of “facts” are mostly predictable based on their party affiliation, then candidly, it’s difficult to believe them. They will rarely recognize the merit of a position because the opposing party offers it? Their team has a monopoly on good ideas? Wisdom only dwells on their side of the aisle?

By the way, this criticism holds true for most of the political pundits, analysts and mouthpieces who are blinded by an I-know-better mentality and apparently driven by agenda.

An interesting experiment in political survivability would be to observe the actions of a politician who always does the right thing for his constituents––his (or her) self-interest would never be a distracting element. His mission would be for the protection and promotion of the common good and every vote would embody that. Would he get re-elected? Is such a person only a fictional character?

And what exactly is the common good? Catholic teaching states that it is “the sum total of social conditions which allow people, either as groups or as individuals, to reach their fulfillment more fully and easily” (Gaudium et Spes (The Church in the Modern World), 1965, 26).

It consists of three essential elements: (a) it presupposes respect for the fundamental rights of the human person and the natural freedoms necessary for the development of the human vocation; (b) it requires the social well being and development of the group itself, i.e., whatever is needed to lead a truly human life such as food, clothing, health, work, education, and culture should be accessible to each one; (c) it requires peace, i.e., the stability and security of a just order (cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1907-09). These social conditions are obtained through social justice.

So to achieve this common good, we need to recognize great politicians before they’re elected. Sounds tricky. If only they glowed in the dark. If only someone would have dimmed the lights at both conventions.

Is the era of the statesman truly over?