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Grandiose Expectations: Learning to Believe Within Our Limits

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Everyone should expect great things of themselves. There can be no excuses for setting low personal standards, or championing mediocrity as the equivalent of one’s full potential.

However, we must be careful not to translate these principles into what we expect from other people. Should one choose to do this, then disappointment is inevitable, especially when politics enters the picture. While it is pivotal to demand honesty and integrity from both our current and prospective public officeholders, we should never, for any reason or under any circumstances, pin our hopes and aspirations on a single person. When this comes to pass, one of the worst elements imaginable in the political arena develops; a cult of personality.

This has been exemplified with an increasing frequency since the latter half of the 2000s, though it has been happening in our country from time to time since her establishment. Notable examples include, but are most certainly not limited to, U.S. Representative Ron Paul — a man who has valid conservative ideas for economic growth, but reveals himself to be a hypocrite as one of the foremost offenders of pork barrel spending in the House, former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin — a firebrand champion of traditional values while having a family which, in public form, no less, falls far short of these, and President Barack Obama — a man who inspired untold millions to believe that they could truly bring about “change” by voting for him, while eventually giving them more of the same. The list goes on and on, but, quite frankly, it becomes depressing, and who needs to dwell on things of that quality?

The point remains that we must hold rational expectations of our politicians. It is undeniable that one getting into public office for the right reasons can do a tremendous amount of good, but he or she cannot be expected to foot the entire bill. An active, engaged electorate must not only take the holders of their trust to task, but bring about the change they seek as well. Some of the most effective, influential legislation I have ever seen came not from senators, congresspersons, or councilmembers, but ordinary citizens who decided to gather enough signatures to place a proposition on the ballot for popular vote. This is the type of rationalism in politics that we so desperately need now; the initiative to bring our own mental blueprints to life, as opposed to sitting back and allowing a claque of politicians to do the heavy lifting, which will, in all likelihood, never get done.

The United States was founded as a nation by and for individualists. Therefore, it is only natural that we, as citizens, believe in ourselves before we do our supposed representatives in government. While I strongly believe that we should invest confidence in them, this must be earned — not regarded as an entitlement.

It is all too often that we do just the opposite, and then wonder why the code of ethics in politics is so abysmal.

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About Joseph F. Cotto

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Well said, Joseph. To an extent, I suspect the Tea Party might embody the grass-roots activism to which you refer…but the liberal retort is that the Tea Party – or at least the major iteration of it – is actually comprised of mostly low-information voters and funded by the Koch brothers.

    But (unfortunately, to my liberal eyes) the activism of the Tea Party has been the most dynamic force in American politics over the past three years for good or for ill.

    There is a similar section of the Democratic party – the Progressives – that is trying to pull the Democrats further to the left, just as the Tea Party is trying to pull the Republican party further to the right. I consider myself (mostly) Progressive, but we have had nowhere near the Tea Party’s success in influencing national politics. Perhaps the main reason why is that we have no billionaires funding the Progressive agenda. Of course, that’s merely my jealousy talking.

    But my point is, on both sides there are individuals who are not politicians who are involving themselves in the political process – witness the protests in Wisconsin, larger than any seen since the 1960’s, and one of which was larger than the Glenn Beck protest in Washington D.C., yet was largely ignored by the MSM. Imagine what would have happened if 100,000 Tea Partiers showed up at a protest – it would have been all over the national news! But since it was ‘only’ liberals protesting the insane governance of Scott Walker, well, let’s say it’s another prime example of how the media is NOT “mostly left-wing” as the conservatives would have us believe.

    But wherever your own political opinions may lie, the above are very current examples of political activism by non-politicians, and the ONLY reason why it’s so hard for politicians to pay closer attention is…the vast majority of campaign donations come not from individuals, but from organizations – corporations, unions, and the like.

    This will not change until we have true campaign reform in the form of political campaigns that are totally publicly-funded, and cannot accept donations from any other person or organization. But come to think of it, even that’s unworkable since organizations (again, corporations and unions) would simply use their “First Amendment rights” (thanks, Citizens United) to make advertisements that are in no wise affiliated with any campaign, but are still for or against a certain candidate or issue.

    Sheesh – we can’t win….

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/dr-dreadful/ Dr Dreadful

    Sound common sense here for the most part, Joseph, but I can’t let this pass:

    “The United States was founded as a nation by and for individualists.”

    I disagree strongly. In fact, a few years ago I wrote a piece for BC explaining exactly why I disagree.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Doc –

    I just went back and read your article, and it’s all quite true, particularly about how individualism did NOT play a huge role in our past, but our future might be at risk due to said individualism…

    …but I take issue (it’s a small issue, but I gotta speak up) with what you said about the lack of hugs in America. In my experience in Asia, we hug a lot more here than there. In fact, my sons both noted how they get few if any hugs in the Philippines, and that’s despite the fact that the Filipino people are much more welcoming to others than most other nations in Asia.

    So yeah, we do hug quite a bit IMO.