Politicians must have an objective beyond victory
For those of us too old or unskilled to compete in the world of professional athletics, choosing favorites from among participating teams, then encouraging them to victory with our shouts and whistles, is a good second choice.
Rooting for our favorite teams as they do battle gives us the pleasures of competition without the embarrassment or exhaustion of participation and defeat. And during the game we can cheer or sneer according to our mood of the moment, without the remorse of having chosen badly. It is, after all, only a game and more than the identity of the winners or losers, it is the thrill of the chase that excites and satisfies us.
Just winning or losing - that is what it’s all about.
Now, fast approaching the magnetic appeal of professional sports is the drama of national political contests as the most interesting and spirited games in town. And as with athletic contests, it is the struggle itself that excites us more than the contestants or the consequences.
Unfortunately, although an aggressive pursuit of victory enlivens the world of competitive sports, using those standards to run our country is a much more dangerous game. Because the primary goal in professional sports is to glorify the players and enrich their sponsor, the difference between victory and defeat is of limited consequence, but the repercussions of victory or defeat in political games go far beyond the playing field.
The impact in the games of politics are infinitely more consequential and yields a much more significant and lasting impact on our world.
Those contests are an essential part of the process by which the democratic principles, as envisioned by our Founders, were to shape this new nation.
The standards they set, spelled out in the Preamble to our Constitution, foresaw “a more perfect Union” focused on “Justice [and] the Blessings of Liberty...“ Unfortunately, in our zeal we seem to have lost the primary point of the exercise, overlooking the sanctity of “the general welfare” and replacing its noble purpose with competitive contests to please a more limited and influential segment of the population, substituting their personal gain for our founding principles.
For a nation to serve the goals sought by our Founders and embraced by our earliest citizens, there must be an objective beyond victory for its own sake.
There should be a moral or philosophical basis for our candidates’ political preferences and legislative performances. Campaigns should include more than just tactics for success - they should reflect the goals of governance on behalf of the entire nation. Whether those solutions are shaped by conservative or liberal philosophies, the focus must be on the well-being of the people - not simply on re-election.
Several decades ago I had the privilege of serving on our City Council, a task to which we all devoted a vast number of hours each week - for no pay beyond the satisfaction of serving our community.
Election to the U.S. Congress is an event rare and wonderful in the life of a patriot, filled with the glory of serving their fellow citizens. But they get paid - as they should.
Unfortunately, they also get paid as they should not - much too often by lobbyists representing industries or businesses who will profit by their actions.
In his second Inaugural Address in 1937, President Franklin Roosevelt reminded us that, “The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little,” adding that, “Government is competent when all who compose it work as trustees for the whole people.”
Not a bad principle by which to govern.
Robert Faber has been a resident of Ann Arbor since 1954. He previously owned a fabric store and later a travel agency. He served a couple of terms on the Ann Arbor City Council. He may be reached at email@example.com.