My stomach has announced: the election is nearly here. My first memorable campaign was 1969, when I was in 5th grade. I could hardly sleep leading up to my dad’s mayoral election. He lost. And those stomach pains gave way to the peculiar physiological process we call crying – whatever tightness was held in my stomach came out in gasps and tears that felt unceasing. This time it’s not my dad nor my wife, but just my president. I guess I’m still part of the “body” politic.
Some of my law students are interested in politics, and at lunch on Friday two young women talked about how the loss of all semblance of privacy deters them from pursuing aspirations to change the world through politics. Then Jennifer and I spoke yesterday at Berkeley United Congregational Church on the topic of “faith and politics.” I reflected out loud on the concerns of those two women. I wished I could have said, “it’s really not that bad,” but I honestly couldn’t. It’s tough stuff.
Politics is about leadership. And leadership is about risk taking. It’s about making friends but assuredly making enemies the minute you take out petitions and stake out positions. So, with knotted stomachs and knowing tomorrow night that there will be winners but also tear-shedding losers, we should appreciate the risk takers. If you know some who’s chosen to serve, send them a note, give ’em a call; encourage them. (That’s one thing that leaders, i.e., you and I, do, we encourage the heart.) Hating on politicians might feel good — and I promise there will be comments today about why people are justified in hating politicians — but it hardly helps us move the ball down the field.
On the other hand if we want better politics, we can start with ourselves. When so many want to either fight about politics or take flight from it, we need people to take the risk of engaging others in a civil way. In this divided time we need people to stay in the fray or jump in and push for facts, for civility, and for the courage to take action. And make no mistake, when it comes to the tough issues, like reducing our debt and deficit, the answers will be painful for nearly everyone and thus unpopular. Although the winner is not certain, on Wednesday what appears certain is that we will have a divided house – literally and figuratively. If we expect them to act with civility and common sense, perhaps we need to take the risk of staying involved and modeling such behavior ourselves.
When you think about your political activity, do you:
Lead with your best self?