I’ve only worked in Washington, DC politics for the past three and a half years so my understanding of national politics as a historical whole is limited. I came to DC in the midst of tumultuous 2006 midterm elections, just before George Allen made famous the “macaca” moment and dashed his hopes for the presidency. But even since 2006 times have changed. Everyone carries a video camera, there’s a fresh crop of new media strategy companies making bank with contracts from every campaign and organization out there wanting to make an innovative splash.
Despite these new avenues of “gotcha” politics and one’s ability to make an influential mark via “digital footprint,” the corruption, hypocrisy and power lusting of government remains the same.
It was Easter on Sunday and the infamous “King of Kings” was on TV. Having recently re-read through the Gospel of Mark, it was neat to see the Bible stories come to life on the screen.
When King Herod told Salome she could have whatever she wanted if she would only dance for him, she asked for the head of John the Baptist. Though the King did not want to kill John, he had promised “anything” to Salome in front of the influentials of his Kingdom. When he asks Salome to change her request, she says no and reminds him that if he does not deliver, all will know that the word of the King is worthless.
In the same way, Pontius Pilate does not want to crucify Jesus. After offering the murderer Barrabas or Jesus, the people choose Jesus and Pilate okays this because he “wanted to the please the crowds.”
Modern politicians often make promises they either can’t keep – or intend to keep even when it’s clearly wrong to do so. They hold themselves accountable only to the principle of re-election, narcissism and power. President Obama promised he would get universal health care passed during his campaign. He did just that several weeks ago but only in the face of an American majority who did not want his health care bill. However, if Obama had not passed this health care plan, another of his many grand promises would have come to ruin. So he passed the bill despite knowing it was the wrong thing to do.
In keeping with the Biblical comparison, King Herod’s majesty was tarnished by his sexual weakness. He would do anything to see Salome dance. So have many of today’s politicians – Democrats and Republicans — given up families, careers and ambitions for the thrill of a sexual fantasy or conquest. Such temptation knows no time in history better than another.
In thousands of years in hundreds of kingdoms and governments, men have lost their identities in the grips of power. They’ve succumbed to the allure of possibility without rules, ruling without accountability and money grabbing without transparency. Politicians have whispered promises to one group while handing gifts to their enemies.
Recognizing this endless beginning of corruption laced governing was sad. I suppose I already knew it but it finally clicked that the people will never fully beat the system. The people are always at a disadvantage as the rulers make deals among one another and falsely inflate the hopes of a public they cannot entirely appease no matter what they do.
So what does this depressing epiphany motivate in me? Resilience, dedication and endurance. The battle of government cannot be won – it can only be maintained. We are the maintenance crew and our jobs are essential.
The frustrations of working in the mixing bowl of national politics are numerous, especially after losing the long health care fight or finding out one of your favorite political leaders has an affair. The happy hour arguments on Capitol Hill are infuriating and sometimes you want to crawl away from politics forever. But you can’t.
I’ve got the curse of care, of knowing that my concern balances the pool of opinions and possibilities – especially now while America’s tipped to a majority that doesn’t represent THE majority. My non-political sister says she’d rather “waste” her time doing many other things besides politics. But I remind her she’s pretty lucky there are people who “waste” their time fighting for the principled politics that keep our country free, our government in check, and provide a voice for her and the things she doesn’t even know she’s fortunate to have.
Politics will never change. But we will always need a new crop of principled people in it for the right reasons – for the people, for liberty, for justice. We need activists and assistants and reporters and passion. We need people with the curse of care, people who can’t walk away without knowing it’s happening without them. And hating it.
King Herod killed John the Baptist even though he knew it was wrong. It’s up to us to elect leaders who aren’t reckless with their promises and keep them based on principle, not politics.