Like many children, I once dreamed of becoming President of the United States. A big, old White House and a high-power job were awe-inspiring.
When I was 13 years old, President Clinton was impeached, and that shiny vision cracked a little. The following trial set a different tone for my generation’s relationship with politicians. As we have grown, that vision has completely disappeared with a string of dishonest politicians with messed up personal lives and poor decision-making abilities.
Discrediting a political rival has become the high stakes poker of politics. If you can find the right piece of dirt, you can end a career. However, someone may call your bluff or trump your allegation with even more dirt to defeat your own candidate. The worst part of this base practice is the American public loves the drama.
Enter President Trump. Now, instead of spending time ratifying an important trade agreement that would help farmers and other industries with USMCA, Congress is spending time on impeachment inquiries into a politician who was trying to dig up dirt about another politician.
I’m not taking a position on the President’s guilt or innocence. My point is voters played an important hand in all this. Americans chose a divided government in 2018 and set the county on this collision course.
An impeachment inquiry for charges of “high crimes and misdemeanors,” where the term high refers not to the magnitude of offense but the level of authority of the office should cause us to reflect on our own part in this. What responsibility do we bear in the current norms of our political system, and how do they affect who enters life in the public eye?
Good people who would be great public leaders have no interest in public service because it is a thankless job. The pay and benefits cannot make up for the heartache of ineffectiveness. There is no joy in watching your family and your own reputation being drug through the mud; and, if elected, there is constant, personal criticisms being freely and violently launched.
The inability to separate personal feelings and surface judgments are pulling our country apart. We need to change our paradigm about politics and politicians. If we actually want to “Make America Great Again,” it has to start with us.
Start learning about what is actually happening in our political system beyond the headlines. Have conversations with your family, friends and neighbors to learn what matters to each of you. Be sure to argue on some things and do not hold it against someone who takes an opposing view. Sometimes that opposing view can be the key to a great solution for everyone.
Talk to your elected representatives. Not only does this help them understand your viewpoint, it also holds them accountable to the people they represent. If you think they aren’t representing you well, run for office yourself or find another candidate to support. Remember they should be earning the authority to be a leader.
Most importantly stop following the sensationalized stories. Our system of government is not broken; we just haven’t been doing our part. If we own our opinions and start actively participating in the political process, this country has a chance to overcome our differences and live up to its potential.
“Insight” is a weekly column published by Kansas Farm Bureau, the state’s largest farm organization whose mission is to strengthen agriculture and the lives of Kansans through advocacy, education and service. This week, the author is Jackie Mundt, Pratt County farmer and rancher. For more information, visit kfb.org.