Hope and Politics in This Time of Pandemic


John F. Phillips, MA

As I sit here wondering what comes next as we endure all of the consequences of the global coronavirus pandemic, it’s not hard to be filled with pessimism and the sinking feeling that this isn’t going to end, and in fact, may get worse before it gets better.

Here in the United States, I think this feeling is exacerbated by the fact that we are in the midst of an election year and that the collective response has been driven more by political agendas than by a genuine concern about how to stop the virus.

I realize that the last paragraph may even be construed as a political statement designed to point fingers and drive a particular agenda. It isn’t. Government at all levels has failed in its primary responsibility to promote the general welfare, which is coming up with ways to manage and “end” the pandemic.

The virus isn’t political, doesn’t choose sides. This is a failure of government at all levels to govern, to make the hard choices, to set aside political differences and work for the common good. It is a failure on the part of political leaders, both Democrat and Republican, to show the political courage to do what they need to do to turn this situation around, elections be damned, to speak the hard truths, to make an argument, and move forward with a plan.

That’s the bad news. Now, here is the good news. Instead of wallowing in the mire of hyperpartisanship and finger pointing, this election offers an opportunity to reset and for the citizens to retake control of our grand experiment in participatory democracy.

I see light at the end of this tunnel because I believe that the time has never been better for citizens to inform the professional political class that we, as citizens, have had it, that we are tired of leaders making decisions, the consequences of which they don’t have to live with, because they want to maintain personal political power rather than do what is in the best interests of the citizenship as a whole.

This opportunity to retake control also carries a heavy responsibility that citizens must embrace. We can no longer neglect our duty and obligation to be informed citizens. We as citizens need to challenge ourselves to become better informed, to challenge our own assumptions and bias, and consider all sides of the argument. We need to break the cycle of confirmation bias, going to information sources that confirm what we believe rather than seeking out information that challenges our assumptions. This doesn’t mean that we have to make a huge time commitment in order to do this. The point is, we, as citizens, have to make the effort to be informed and make our own decisions. Political leaders and the media need to understand that we are no longer willing to be sheep who are manipulated by the media and taken for granted until the next election .

I’ve been told that I care about this stuff too much, that I, as an individual, can’t make a difference, that I should just accept this madness and spend my time taking care of my lawn and playing golf. To that I say, ‘bullshit.” I believe that I CAN make a difference, that my vote does count, and that I can impact change. You need to believe that, too.

When I was in university, my political science department had a motto, “politics is good” (this is actually my email address). The late Charles Krauthammer always talked about having to get our politics right, believing that politics impacts everything. History is full of examples of societies that didn’t get their politics right and suffered the consequences. I believe that government can do good and promote the general welfare, as long as we, as citizens, hold it accountable and force it to act in our interests.

Right now, we are in a really dark place. I also believe that it is always darkest right before the dawn. As citizens, we can sit here, throw up our hands and lament our fate, or, we can seize the day and use this opportunity to make our lives better. This is where I see the hope and opportunity. It’s time to rise up and take control of our destiny, to restore our faith in this great country that was built with the sweat and blood of those who came before us. We don’t have to accept our current situation.

Who is with me?

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