We all love to see politicians kissing babies, volunteering at food banks or scarfing down a corndog at the Iowa State Fair. After all, it’s proof that we, the voters, made the correct choice when electing a down-to-earth and understanding representative.
This point was reiterated by the Editorial Board’s recent piece, “Jimmy Carter’s legacy, a reminder that Americans need more good people in politics,” which expresses how important it is to elect morally just individuals into positions of power. In the midst of the United States’ current politically divisive climate, the editorial highlights how modern day politicians should strive for civility and kindness, while also cementing themselves as strong leaders.
However, a politician’s perceived benevolence shouldn’t hold any weight when Americans are attempting to elect effective leaders. Rather, policies and demonstrated leadership should be primarily valued, as these efforts are the only real mechanism through which politicians can tangibly improve the lives of their voters.
For example, U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris has long been lauded as a defender of human rights globally and as a proponent of more restrictive gun legislation. In light of the recent traumatizing school shooting in Nashville, however, she has only come out in a televised press conference to “praise the courage” of the two Tennessee politicians who were expelled from their seats in the Tennessee House of Representatives. If she truly wanted to honor the cause those representatives were fighting for, Harris could have advocated for numerous gun-control bills in Congress.
Sure, supporters can commend Harris’ actions by claiming that she spoke out knowing that the United States’ gridlocked Congress wouldn’t be able to pass any national gun-control measures. But the question still stands — why are we content with fruitless posturing? We should be able to expect our elected officials to campaign for impactful legislation, but citizens have been trained to be grateful to leaders like Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) who do the bare minimum and simply pay lip service to prominent issues.
It’s a nice gesture from Harris’ end to publicly announce her support for the Tennessee lawmakers’ greater fight for gun control, but her statement is ultimately hollow. It doesn’t further amplify the gun violence protection movement that the Tennessee politicians and numerous citizens have been rallying for or provide lasting support to the cause, instead just serving as a positive PR move for Harris.
This is not to say that leaders who aren’t able to pass legislation or implement nationwide change aren’t important or are faking their agreeable personalities — rather, citizens should demand real action from their leaders that can measurably improve their communities.
The Editorial Board’s piece is not wrong to hope for a more idealistic version of U.S. national politics. However, it falsely equates politicians’ positive public activism with an assumed dedication to actually helping their constituents. Americans deserve more than just “good people in politics” and should strive to elect politicians who have genuinely proven their record of true leadership and commitment to progress through their legislative voting history.
Shruti Nemala (26C) is from Johns Creek, Georgia.
Shruti Nemala (she/her) (26C) is from Johns Creek, Georgia, majoring in economics and finance. Outside of the Wheel, Nemala is involved with 180 Degrees Consulting and Emory Impact Investing Group where she works to support local small businesses and nonprofits, helping them to succeed. At any given moment, you’ll probably find her embroidering, trying (unsuccessfully) to solve sudoku puzzles, or rewatching "Modern Family."