Politics isn’t everything. For many people it isn’t anything, or it is something to avoid at all cost. For me it has been a way, an avenue, for giving back for all I have received, for trying to help make “things”, the country, the world, a slightly better and safer place for my children and the future. It has simply been a vehicle for public service and, I suppose, a way to justify my existence.
Because people are drawn to politics for reasons of power or belief, its worst characteristics are conflict, bitterness, distrust, antagonism, even hatred. That’s what causes many people to steer well away. After having my own idealism tested in about every way possible, I’ve come not to care about politics very much. I still believe as strongly as before that the Democratic party, at its best, is the best option for achieving social justice, equality, fairness, and care for those left out. It is not always at its best.
To achieve these lofty goals and ideals, it must also be the party of creativity, invention, and transformation. And it is in the last few decades that the Democratic Party has fallen short. In the absence of imagination, new policies to achieve traditional objectives, and an experimental approach to an age of transformation, it has too often retreated into a protective, even defensive, crouch in response to the unrelenting forces of laissez faire.
Having done about all I can do, through office-holding and office-seeking, and then writing books and articles and speaking, it is time to move on. Somewhere. There are still some transformative ideas in public finance and priorities (the “economy”), in America’s role in the world (foreign policy), and military reform (defense) that I would like to see given a chance. But waiting for the phone to ring is not for anyone with dignity.
All this philosophizing, from a college philosophy major, is prompted by age and most recently by the book Why Does the World Exist? by Jim Holt. It wonderfully took me back to the world of profound thought but also forward to what I hope might be some new way of making a social contribution beyond politics. Who knows. Only a few fellow seekers might care.
We all have a soul of some sort, I believe. Whatever that is connects us to the spiritual world. We have to be true to it or we lose our way, our identity, our integrity, our reason for existence, in other words our soul. When the chips are down, and they’re almost all down after seven and a half very fast decades, cultivation of the soul is more important than politics and power.
I even believe there is something like a human soul that unites us all, way over and above politics. At its rare best America has shown a kind of national soul, where we united and pulled together, and helped one another, and got along.
I pray that day will come again.