I Belong Here- Politics From The Heartland


John F. Phillips, MA

I haven’t been writing much lately. Pandemic burnout, the fact that everyday feels like Tuesday, is part of it. The cold, snowy and grey winter doesn’t help.

The other reason is that I’m suffering from political burnout. It is really hard to write about this stuff when everything is so negative, divisive, and confrontational. It’s hard to see the light when there is so much darkness. Like the country, I’ve kind of lost my way.

I have spent a lot of time since January 6th reflecting on and thinking about how I want to move forward. I’ve thought about throwing in the towel, but quitting isn’t in my DNA. I’ve never quit and, at age 68, now isn’t the time to start. Quitting is too easy.

During this time of reflection, I’ve come to realize that there is a desperate need to reset our political discourse, to move away from all of the negativity and darkness and move toward a greater understanding of how politics works and how political power, if exercised appropriately, can be a force for good.

The late political commentator Charles Krauthammer argued that politics is related to and impacts everything and that we must do politics well in order to bring about positive outcomes. The alternative, Mr. Krauthammer argued, is a devolution of our society that leads to outcomes like what occurred in Germany in the 1930’s. We all know how well that ended.

It must also be understood that a symbiotic relationship exists between domestic politics and international affairs. To understand the foreign policy of a particular country, the domestic political dynamics of that country must also be understood. In my opinion, there is no getting around this.

When I started Politics From The Heartland, I didn’t really have any idea about how I wanted to do this. As it evolved, I found that my writing wasn’t really doing what I wanted it to do. I was offering a lot of information. I was doing a pretty good job archiving things that might have been of interest and commenting on things that other people wrote about. I was throwing a lot against the wall and looking at what stuck.

What I wasn’t doing was offering MY INSIGHTS in a way that reflected MY education, experience, and the wisdom I had acquired over a lifetime of observing and being involved in the political arena,, both domestic and international, as a participant, researcher, teacher, and writer. I’ve spent a lifetime thinking about this stuff, but I wasn’t offering anything new, different, insightful, nor was I offering a perspective that didn’t reflect what many believed inside of the echo chamber of academia, the professional political class, or the media.

If one is to call oneself a thinker, one must think, not thinking for thinking’s sake, but thinking in a way that allows one to understand and form insights, One must pay attention to the echo chamber, but not be consumed by it. Sometimes, one must offer uncommon sense opinions, insights, and analysis that makes people think differently, question assumptions, and perhaps, approach situations from a different angle, challenging old assumptions and bias that guided past thinking and action.

Having been outside of the echo chamber most of my life, living in the Midwest United States rather than in the east coast bubble, I believe that I am well equipped to give a different perspective on things. I didn’t have the opportunity to attend an Ivy League or “power” university, I went to a small state school with a highly rated political science/ international politics program. I haven’t taught at a major university, but rather high school and community college. I didn’t have the opportunity to write my dissertation after completing my coursework for my PhD, not that I didn’t want to, but I had a family to support so I went to work. Having worked in the private sector, my perspective is grounded in practical experience. My path hasn’t been better or worse than others, just different, and I am better for it.

All of that being said, I belong here. I belong here just as much as anybody else, as much as the Harvard PhD or the graduate of the London School of Economics or the corporate CEO or the media personality.

So, starting now, I’m going to back up my rhetoric with action. I will offer MY INSIGHTS on politics and international affairs, insights that are formed by careful analysis and rooted in facts and life experience, not just data and algorithms, but also rooted in historical analysis and other less quantitative approaches. My insights will reflect MY life experience, education, and the wisdom accumulated during the course of many years.

I will show you that politics and business are intricately interwoven and that domestic politics and international affairs have the symbiotic relationship I mentioned earlier. I will discuss political risk in a way that is practical and useful. I will offer opinions that are contrarian, that challenge you to think about things in a different way. I will help you understand how politics can be noble, positive, and a force for good, rather than the negative and cynical game it has become over the past decade or so.

I promise.

I challenge you, like I challenge myself, to be part of the solution rather than part of the problem. I challenge you to stretch yourself intellectually and to consider other points of view, to embrace perspectives that force you to think outside of the box rather than reconfirm ingrained biases. I know this stuff and I am really, really good at what I do. I am confident, but not arrogant, because I also know what I don’t know.


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