How should we judge our politicians? 

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People either love or hate politicians, and these judgments are typically based on ideals. But we don’t live in an ideal world.  Photo from    Flickr Creative Commons   .

People either love or hate politicians, and these judgments are typically based on ideals. But we don’t live in an ideal world. Photo from Flickr Creative Commons.

There tends to be two types of people: Those who don’t really follow politics, and those who hate politicians. Of course, you have pockets of people who have fiery support for their representative, but within the echo chambers of the internet you will mainly find negative, destructive comments on politicians that people dislike.  

There isn’t anything wrong with this. It’s a core part of the political process to call out decisions you disagree with. But in trying to create a more complete view of the current landscape, many armchair political scientists create a sort of all-or-nothing scale to judge the hearts and souls of politicians.  

If it wasn’t clear enough, I am trying to call out purity tests. Some people like to say there is a set of issues that every politician must agree on in order to be in the likable crowd and anything less than this is a failure on their part. 

Leftist circles in America are particularly egregious about this. Many will look at what Bernie Sanders is attempting and love it, which is good. However, then the argument is that any less than Bernie Sanders is a capitalist big-money crony who won’t enact any sort of progressive change in this country. 

This line of thinking would work if we lived in an ideal model of the world. But we don’t live in an ideal world. We live in hell. 

There are many reasons why a politician might not vote or speak how we want, but I’m going to focus on three for right now. 

First, representation is not as easy as some make it out to be. People disagree on many issues. In fact, every (elected) politician in the world represents people who disagree on things. So, the goal of a politician isn’t to make everyone happy, as that is impossible. In fact, because different politicians represent different people — and are different people themselves — they disagree. So, in order to get anything done, there must be some amount of collaboration and cooperation. Sometimes, politicians will have to concede points in order to put other things they care about into effect. 


Different politicians focus on different issues, like how Bernie Sanders focuses on healthcare but we shouldn’t discount a candidate just because their worldview is different from ours.  Photo by Flickr Creative Commons.

Different politicians focus on different issues, like how Bernie Sanders focuses on healthcare but we shouldn’t discount a candidate just because their worldview is different from ours. Photo by Flickr Creative Commons.

In the same vein, politicians will sometimes say things that they perhaps don’t fully agree with. In order to become electable, politicians must not stray too far out of public discourse, or they risk alienating people. This happens all the time, on both sides of the aisle. There are very likely politicians right now who are socialists at heart. There may be some who want the eventual dissolution of government in favor of free markets. There is probably even some who are open to the idea of ethnostates, unfortunately. However, because all of these are a little too extreme for the general public to back at a large level, these ideas lie only in their minds. 

Finally, there is the issue of prioritization. We all have a hierarchy of issues that matter to us, usually based on our own experiences. It’s why Bernie focuses more on healthcare while Warren puts more of an emphasis on childcare. All the meanwhile, Trump puts immigration at the core of his agenda. While we can argue about where these focuses come from, we shouldn’t discount a candidate only because their worldview is informed by a different set of experiences than ours. 

All politicians have to watch and meter what they are saying to a certain extent. And so, to judge based on perceived views is silly. We judge ourselves based on our beliefs, but we can only judge others based on their actions. In that sense, then, it is important to think strategically about who we support and deride. Just because someone isn’t perfect doesn’t mean they aren’t good. In fact, soft skills and public perception of a politician are often as important or more so than their ideological purity.  

In order to enact the change we want to see, we first have to convince people of it. Oftentimes, a charismatic but imperfect leader is more important in warming people up to ideas than a sound but unlikable one. 


Peter Fenteany is the associate opinion editor for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at peter.fenteany@uconn.edu.

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