Pol­icy, pol­i­tics and love

The Saline Courier - - OPINION - KATHRYN LOPEZ

Iwas sit­ting at a pol­icy roundtable in Wash­ing­ton, D.C., just hours after the re­cent Demo­cratic pres­i­den­tial pri­mary de­bates. It was the kind of con­fer­ence-room event where acronyms for pro­grams most of Amer­ica has never heard of are earnestly dis­cussed. If you were mis­chievous, you might set a drink­ing game to the word “sup­ple­men­tal” or the men­tion of a par­tic­u­lar law or reg­u­la­tion or two. And yet, about three hours in, one of the self-de­scribed data-driven wonks at the ta­ble an­nounced her pol­icy pre­scrip­tion as “love.”

And that was a mo­ment of con­fir­ma­tion for me about some­thing I had been think­ing dur­ing the first and se­cond rounds of Demo­cratic de­bates: Mar­i­anne Wil­liamson could win the Demo­cratic nom­i­na­tion.

Back in the D.C. pol­icy room, that sin­gle in­sis­tence on love as the an­swer seemed to open some­thing up. Soon, one of the most in­for­ma­tive and frus­trated peo­ple at the ta­ble then men­tioned the bad-news fatigue that seems to bur­den ev­ery­one these days. She was self-aware to know that though the is­sues she spends her days on are ur­gent, even she would be tired of be­ing in­un­dated with the de­tails if they didn’t have to do with her pro­fes­sional life. She was look­ing for some­thing other than an­other law or reg­u­la­tion, too.

The con­ver­sa­tion went back to pol­icy and how to com­mu­ni­cate the im­por­tant but ar­cane minu­tiae in our over­whelmed real­ity. And I couldn’t shake some­thing that re­minded me of the 2016 pres­i­den­tial pri­maries and elec­tion. Dur­ing that time, peo­ple from all walks of life would tell me: “I’m vot­ing for Don­ald Trump be­cause he isn’t a politi­cian.”

Wil­liamson isn’t a politi­cian, ei­ther, and she sure isn’t serv­ing up the usual sound­bites. And for as much as she was laughed at on so­cial me­dia for talk­ing about the “dark psy­chic force of the col­lec­tivized ha­tred,” the for­mer pres­i­dent of the Amer­i­can Enterprise In­sti­tute, Arthur Brooks, who is now a pro­fes­sor at Har­vard, ba­si­cally just wrote a book on some­thing like that -the ubiq­ui­tous con­tempt that mo­ti­vates and feeds so much of our pol­i­tics, and in­creas­ingly, our daily in­ter­ac­tions. Wil­liamson says we need heal­ing, and she’s right.

We prob­a­bly all need the civics les­son that Ne­braska Sen. Ben Sasse would be all too willing to pro­vide -- as his so­cial me­dia pres­ence and floor speeches have of­ten made clear -- to re­mem­ber the principles and as­pi­ra­tions that our coun­try was founded upon. We have to look at the many good, even great, things we still have, and fig­ure out how to take bet­ter care of them.

I don’t ac­tu­ally want Wil­liamson to win a ma­jor-party nom­i­na­tion for pres­i­dent, but if you con­sider that we seem to be ad­dicted to pres­i­den­tial-level pol­i­tics like it is the lat­est se­ries on Net­flix, she would make it more entertaini­ng go­ing into the gen­eral elec­tion. And that has been a win­ning strat­egy for the Repub­li­cans.

As the week of the se­cond round of de­bates was wind­ing down, I thought the words of Eph­e­sians 4:29-32: “Never let evil talk pass your lips; say only the good things men need to hear, things that will re­ally help them ... Get rid of all bit­ter­ness, all pas­sion and anger, harsh words, slan­der, and mal­ice of ev­ery kind.” Imag­ine that be­ing ap­plied to our pol­i­tics -- or our ev­ery thought, word, deed and so­cial-me­dia in­ter­ac­tion!

If we all tried to at­tain the self-dis­ci­pline of love and lead­er­ship, we might not have to de­pend on our bro­ken pol­i­tics for re­demp­tion. If we’re watch­ing out for each other in the ev­ery­day with the kind of gen­eros­ity that is the stuff of the Beat­i­tudes, our lives would not be as con­sumed by pol­i­tics as they are now.

Like Trump, Wil­liamson is not the prob­lem or the sav­ior, but she shows us some­thing about our poi­sonous cul­ture. The an­ti­dote is not in a po­lit­i­cal ticket, but the way we live our lives.

•••

Kathryn Jean Lopez is se­nior fel­low at the Na­tional Re­view In­sti­tute, ed­i­torat-large of Na­tional Re­view On­line and found­ing di­rec­tor of Catholic Voices USA. She can be con­tacted at [email protected]­tion­al­re­view.com.

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