Politics Above Politics

Author: Gary Hart

There is a great difference between Politics as it is practices today and politics as the only way devised for men and women to organize their societies.  Politics today is corrupted by money, self-interest, narrow-gauge thinking, dedication to office and power, and is becoming increasingly mean spirited.  In its authentic form, politics is a noble profession, especially when it does not become a profession, populated by people dedicated to the common good and by those whose concern is for future generations.

One of the participants in Plato’s Dialogues describes politics as “the care of souls.”

As one of the perennial few in each generation who migrate from religion to law and government, it was a natural transition.  I could spend a life helping those whose souls were sooner or later in transition to the hereafter.  Or I could do what little I could to help the public lives of those souls while here on this earth.

That meant that, first by supporting younger progressive candidates for office and then holding public office myself, I had to care for both fellow human beings but also the earth we all inhabit.  Words like security became central.  Nuclear weapons might make us secure against others who have them.  But we would all be better off without any anywhere.  Chemicals came to be used to grow food.  But they also contaminated air and water and caused cancer in humans.  Burning carbon fuels might heat our homes and get us from here to there.  But it soon began to warm the very climate upon which life on earth depends.

Politics has yet to redefine genuine security.  It will not.  But politics might.

To read Rachael Carson on the oceans and the interrelationship of all life is to see the difference between Politics and politics.  To read the Declaration of Independence is to begin to understand why men and women of social conviction enter public life.  To contemplate Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount and other similar religious texts is to know that human existence must encompass charity, empathy, and service or that existence is merely time spent transiting from birth to death.

A life in Politics used to be interesting and amusing.  Now it about nothing but power, access to power, influencing power, and shouldering into the public trough.  To have known it in more noble and idealistic times and to see it now is to fear for the future of American democracy.

Against the sordid backdrop of Politics today, how can a still idealistic but aging public servant urge young people, who now fill the streets of our great cities to save their lives, that there is something called politics and that it is a noble profession.  They are frighteningly aware that fear of the gun lobby, and careerism among elected officials, rob those elected officials of the courage required to put the lives of America’s next generation ahead of the lobbyists and their own timid careers.

It is not accidental that there is no present-day book called Profiles in Courage.

We must either restore politics or continue down a darkening path that will not lead us to any kind of greatness any of us would recognize.  Correcting our present course will require Americans dedicated to civility, the common good, politics instead of Politics, tolerance, respect for difference, generosity of spirit, and maturity of judgment.  We must make the public square a forum for adults who know a little history, who don’t think their ideological church is right and everyone else’s is wrong.

An aspect of tolerance is mature understanding that those who seek to lead are not perfect.  Standards must be met, and character is demonstrated over a lifetime.  The caliber and quality of those willing to submit to the ritual hazing by the media, and now particularly the partisan media, have deteriorated in the last few decades.  Having loosened the dogs of expose`, predictably the pendulum has now swung so far the other way that all is permitted and what would have been outrageous behavior a few years back is now accepted if it is demonstrated by someone who shares our anger.

Returning the train of our nation to the relatively straight rails of history will not happen overnight.  We did not replace politics with Politics in the blink of an eye.  We are in the process of making epic mistakes in addressing the new era of mass migrations, globalization, and technology and will suffer for those mistakes until we exhaust ourselves with excess and the adults arrive.

But when those who place politics above Politics, the national interest above special interests, do arrive, we can once again become the beacon of the world whose principles are admired and respected by all men and women of good will everywhere.

5 Responses to “Politics Above Politics”

  1. Paul G Says:

    In his blog, Politics Above Politics, today’s “Modern Thomas Jefferson,” (Senator Hart)challenges readers with a profound question for our obsessively age-conscious marketing society (that his essay appears to unintentionally answer quite eloquently):

    Q: HOW CAN A STILL IDEALISTIC BUT AGING PUBLIC SERVANT SHOW FRIGHTENINGLY AWARE YOUNG PEOPLE POLITICS CAN BE NOBLE PROFESSION?

    “Against the sordid backdrop of Politics today, how can a still idealistic but aging public servant urge young people, who now fill the streets of our great cities to save their lives, that there is something called politics and that it is a noble profession (as) they are frighteningly aware that fear of the gun lobby and careerism among elected officials, rob those elected officials of the courage required to put the lives of America’s next generation ahead of the lobbyists and their own timid careers?”

    A 1: HOW A LIFETIME OF GOOD WORKS CAN TRANSCEND EVEN MAJOR HUMILIATION:

    “To read Rachael Carson on the oceans and the interrelationship of all life is to see the difference between Politics and politics. To read the Declaration of Independence is to begin to understand why men and women of social conviction enter public life. To contemplate Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount and other similar religious texts is to know that human existence must encompass charity, empathy, and service or that existence is merely time spent transiting from birth to death.

    Correcting our present course will require Americans dedicated to civility, the common good, politics instead of Politics, tolerance, respect for difference, generosity of spirit, and maturity of judgment. We must make the public square a forum for adults who know a little history, who don’t think their ideological church is right and everyone else’s is wrong. An aspect of tolerance is mature understanding that those who seek to lead are not perfect. Standards must be met, and character is demonstrated over a lifetime. The caliber and quality of those willing to submit to the ritual hazing by the media, and now particularly the partisan media have deteriorated in the last few decades.”

    A 2: WHY AN IDEALISTIC BUT AGENING PUBLIC SERVANT MUST BEGIN TO LEAD US NOW TO DECLARE OUR INDEPENDENCE FROM FRIGHTENINGLY NORMALIZED CAMPAIGN FINANCE CORRUPTION … BEFORE THE 2018 MID-TERMS:

    “Returning the train of our nation to the relatively straight rails of history will not happen overnight … We are in the process of making epic mistakes in addressing the new era of mass migrations, globalization, and technology and will suffer for those mistakes until we exhaust ourselves with excess and the adults arrive. But when those who place (…) the national interest above special interests do arrive, we can once again become the beacon of the world whose principles are admired and respected by all men and women of good will everywhere.”

    (Week of July 4 independence celebrations … in Denver and Patriots’ land?)

  2. Gary Hart Says:

    Dear Friends and Readers: With great respect and appreciation for all who enter here, the host would like to make a friendly request. On occasion, a few comments have been directed more toward the host and his ancient career than to the topic at hand. Too much of this may have the affect of boring those who did not participate in those long ago campaigns or care much about rehearsing them. This site is not about the host. It is meant to stir discussion, especially these days, as to steps that must be taken to restore our Republic to its true course. If there are those in the hardy band of regular participants who forward these essays to friends, please encourage them to comment as well. I am deeply grateful to you all, especially at this profoundly spiritual holiday season. GH

  3. Paul G Says:

    PRESIDENT CARTER ON RESURRECTION EVE, “AGE LIMIT IS 93”
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tQR5G3kvfNQ

  4. LORENZO CHERIN Says:

    such is my enthusiasm for the comments above by our host, that I, as not only a keen one of his hardy band, but one in the city and land of Robin Hood, as an Alan A’ Dale to this man’s ageing Robin Hood, the generation young enough to be his son by several years, old enough to remember his campaign when a school boy keen on American politics, say, we can far from help not alluding to the man and his efforts in pursuit of truth and justice, such is the affection in which he is held.

    And this was another great piece, but have been busy and not here a little while and was very impressed by the above !

  5. John Dedie Says:

    As a college professor this article has reminded me that in teaching about politics I should focus on civility too.

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