Of the People, By the People, For the People
Idealism can be dangerous. I’ve covered this ground with some harshly worded opinion before. But claiming to be the “realist” when you are essentially just content to test the direction of the wind before following whatever breezy whims the public may throw at you is not just dangerous; it’s dangerous, phony, lazy, and insipid.
You don’t have to lie to people to inspire them. Nor do you have to throw out unverifiable claims or outlandish promises, but it does help to show that you are listening. It helps when you have your finger on the pulse of their needs, not just their political views.
That’s the lesson I think Hillary Clinton needs to learn, after two campaigns against notable underdogs.
It’s April 14th ,2016, as I’m writing this, and the debate between Clinton and Sanders is already stirring up another debate among viewers: Is Hillary an elitist naysayer, a boring centrist, or just a realist stating the facts? Yes.
All of the above could be accurately stated, depending on your perspective, and you wouldn’t be wrong. She’s right that we need to do more than keep shouting about the problems, and she’s right that politicians shouldn’t be elected for their promises but their results. However, given Bernie’s track record thus far of winning states and supporters, isn’t she the one who’s a bit out of touch with reality? He’s far from unelectable, and she could start giving him credit for being less “unrealistic,” but that would hardly bode well for her at this point.
Don’t get me wrong: I don’t actually dislike Hillary all that much. Maybe it’s because she’s a woman, maybe it’s because I get the one-track-mind mentality of her ambition, or maybe I have some kind of brain disease. In any case, this isn’t a Sanders vs. Clinton battle piece, nor is it a commentary on the debate.
This is about a war of philosophies.
When a policy has been tested on one group of people, and it has provided happiness and health and well-being, it seems well within reason that other people in other cultures may benefit from a test run. Why then are we so quick to paint someone who suggests a higher minimum wage, fewer economic monopolies, free education, and better healthcare as some sort of idealistic fool?
The numbers do add, Hillary, because we’ll make them add up. If the billions spent in bailouts for the banks can add up, then surely we can make the numbers add up for the common people.
After all, we are supposedly electing a government that works for its people, not the other way around. Right?
The sad thing for Clinton is that she is certainly capable of making the same promises, and could have probably had an easy run if she had invested just a little bit of faith in her own ability to govern based on policies that seemed almost too good to be true. *Almost* too good to be true is better than something that sounds true simply because it’s not much different from what we already know. The same people who voted for Obama’s theme of hope are probably voting for Bernie’s theme of economic (and ecological) reform.
Societal ideals can change in phases, usually slower than we need them to but faster than we think they will, once the ball gets rolling. Gay marriage is a great example of how something that once was a topic of heated debate became a federal matter of fact. Is it crazy to think free college might be next?
In tonight’s debate, both candidates essentially called into question the others’ judgment, and both candidates seemed surprised.
Your judgment can be called into question when there is a noticeable gap between the knowledge available to you and your decisions based on that knowledge. Meanwhile, continuing to tout your realism and resourcefulness simply because you’ve got more specifics is hardly a good defense against the accusation that you aren’t making great strides toward progress from an idealistic standpoint.
Policies are built upon ideas, and those ideas are implemented by many people with a collective source of knowledge (one would hope, anyway). Hillary talks as if the president makes decisions about foreign policy all alone in the Oval Office, which — she would be well aware — is not the case.
More importantly, the campaigning days leading up to those moments where such decisions are made are dependent not upon one person’s efforts but by the group of people who halfway believe that their candidate is not only telling it straight, but telling it true. It’s hard to believe in someone who didn’t believe in themselves enough to reach for promises worth delivering.
All photos are screen shots from YouTube
Megan Wallin is a young writer with a background in the social sciences and an interest in seeking the extraordinary in the mundane. A Seattle native, she finds complaining about the constant drizzle and overabundance of Starbucks coffee therapeutic. With varied work experiences as a residential counselor, preprimary educator, musician, writing tutor and college newspaper reporter/editor, Megan is thrilled to offer a unique perspective through writing, research and open dialogue.