If you are about to email my editor demanding that I be terminated from The Observer staff because I’m a fascist bigot, just hear me out before you do so. But I hope that your first thoughts are more so of intrigue regarding my clickbait title, and as fortune favors the bold, let me explain my position. I honestly had several thoughts on what this piece should be titled before finalizing my decision. “A Slice of South Dining Deli Ham Focused Grouped to be more Presidential than Joe Biden” and “Laura Ingraham; Says the Commentator Who Was Just Called a Piece of Domesticated Feta by The Atlantic” were examples of titles that swarmed my brain during the creative writing process. But a writing goal I have is to be more succinct, and nothing speaks more concisely to the hysteria of contemporary American politics than “Let’s Go Brandon.”
It is midterm election season after all, and this hysteria is all the craze. There is a great scene from the “Game of Thrones” prequel, “House of the Dragon,” that highlights my current frustration with politics. At a royal hunt thrown for the birthday of his son, King Viserys is presented with proposals from suitors to wed his oldest daughter, Rhaenyra. After he asked to consider another ridiculous proposal for his daughter’s hand, King Viserys simply retorts, “I have come here to hunt, not to be suffocated by all this f***ing politicking!” Same brother, same. My contempt for politics is similar to the King’s and can probably be attributed to my exposure to media and civil discourse at a very age. Growing up in suburban Cook County certainly placed me in an ideological “No Man’s Land.” Liberal agendas in Chicago proper continuously struck blows with the conservative ideologies that resided in the rest of Illinois. Beginning in the fourth grade, I would always beg my dad to bring home a copy of the Chicago Sun-Times after work, to which he would always oblige. Of course, the sports section was my singular preference for several years, but as I began to read more, that content began to dry up. So, I turned to the sections of the newspaper not made for the faint of heart, business and politics. And I was shocked at the headlines that would creep across the pages as I started to retain information, and in turn, think for myself. Rod Blagojevich’s imprisonment, the assassination attempt on Gabby Giffords’ life, the 2012 presidential election, and so many more headlines frustrated me. Why politics was so violent, corrupt and self-aggrandizing was something I just couldn’t understand. Unbeknownst to me, this would only get worse. Much worse.
So, let’s fast forward to 2020, one of the most discouraging years in recent memory. The 2020 general elections were a buildup of economic, social and, of course, COVID-19 issues that ravaged our national landscape, and it brought out the worst in social justice warriors and proud boys alike. Social media was a battleground for “Gotcha Journalism” and political interest, and the general election came center stage that November, a stage for all to see. And to me, it highlighted how damaging politics can be. So damaging in fact that it impacts the very fibers of our human spirit. While Joe Biden lamented on webinars, “If you don’t vote for me, then you’re not Black,” Donald Trump made verbal attacks on the character of Biden’s son Hunter, while belittling his deceased son Beau. Later, the events of Jan. 6 solidified that our American political culture is plagued with one of the worst culture wars our society has ever seen. And while memes can attempt to rectify the situation (these are so funny), there are no signs this culture war will be slowing down anytime soon.
Now let’s fast forward to the present, November 2022. Two years into Biden’s term as the 46th president of the United States, the Right continues to have a field day as “Let’s Go Brandon” chants consistently flood our stadiums. The left hopes to hold some ground in congress with elections next week, but if history has anything to say about it, conservatives are going to have a field day next week. Yes, I could write that the damage is seen in the way we address things as Right and Left, but the factors that have irritated me the most in this political season are the ways both sides of the aisle view their politicians. This isn’t about who wins and who loses, or who even will be president in 2024. This is much bigger than that. Politicians no longer view themselves as public servants, and in turn, their supporters don’t either. There is a perception that our politicians are “free-thinking champions of conservative or liberal ideologies.” But the reality is, that the majority of our supposed “public servants” are limousine liberals or country club conservatives. So, the question must be asked, when and why did public service become a political aspiration? Some might disagree with Plato in his opinion that philosophers make the best leaders, but he is not wrong in stating that political leadership is a duty, not a career preference or an avenue for the pursuit of power and self-interest. The best leaders are chosen for their positions, not by their own advocacy, but through the support of others who see that they have the right qualities to lead.
Are there obvious flaws in the very pillars of our American Constitution and democracy? You bet. Are there socioeconomic inequities that exist between classes and races in our country that have been made worse by political self-interest? Yes sir buddy, yes sir. Are there tangible solutions that will help our society move forward and heal? I don’t know. And I am not going to pretend that I know the path forward to find politicians that will stand for office out of public service. But I do know two things that must be eradicated to have any hope to achieve societal goals in a partisan fashion. First, the “me” focused attitude of our politicians in office must be adjusted. Far too often we see politicians fixate talking points around “When I was in office, inflation did this, unemployment rates went down, and my bills passed did this blah blah blah blah blah.” Political rhetoric has always been a problem for politicians, but maybe if they at least pretended to be public servants then this conversation would be different. But they don’t. It’s not about you. It’s about the country and the people you represent who voted you into office. But what do I know?
Secondly, political theater and stunts must be stopped at all costs. Looking at you Martha’s Vineyard and all parties involved. The September stunt, which saw dozens of migrants from Latin America be flown into the haven for the super-rich denied these migrants a chance at finding basic human dignity through the ability to work. Democrat party leaders such as Joe Biden call it a stunt but were criticized for inaction. Republican officials such as Florida governor Ron DeSantis called it a motion to prove the hypocrisy of the left but were seen as being cruel and intolerant. And this is only a recent stunt that has made headlines, as political theater is nothing new to our democracy. Public service, not political agendas, might be able to dissuade that.
As Saint Mother Teresa always used to pray “The Fruit of Service is Peace,” and maybe, just maybe if our leader’s pursued servitude, then we might be able to find peace as a nation. Or maybe at the least, they wouldn’t be the punchline of jokes like “Let’s Go Brandon.”
Stephen Viz is a one-year MBA candidate and graduate of Holy Cross College. Hailing from Orland Park, Illinois, his columns are all trains of thoughts, and he can be found at either Decio Cafe or in Mendoza. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @StephenViz.
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.