Politics Without Vision

For some time now I’ve been meaning to write about the lack of a national vision in both political parties. It seems to me that our politicians spend a lot of time talking about local and regional and even national programs, goals, initiatives, and so on without much taking a crack at defining how those p’s, g’s. and i’s would fit into a context larger than self-interest. It’s a major missing element in what little discussion we’re having, this “where do we want to go with all this?” kind of stuff. You’d think nobody cared.

You’d be wrong. We do. It’s just that nobody in a position to challenge us to think outside our own narrow issues and concerns ever does. The Republics offer slogans and simple-minded, easy-to-digest platitudes, and the Democrats offer…nothing. No vision at all, nothing but p’s, g’s, and i’s galore, tailored to every taste and constituency. It’s as if the larger context is unimportant–or non-existent.

I’ve been meaning to, and one of these days I will, but in the meantime we have an impassioned plea for the return of statesmanship that will do until something better comes along. Chi-Dooh Li, a Seattle attorney and a Republican, writes in Sunday’s Seattle Post-Intelligencer that:

The us vs. them mind-set inevitably leads to narrowed and warped notions of service in leaders and deep alienation in constituents.

After noting an instance from the 70’s when Republican Gov. Dan Evans chided Li for writing a memo that codified the differences between friends and enemies on a particular bill by–

telling me that in his administration, we did not maintain “enemies lists.”

–he writes of an encounter in Mexico with a newly-elected leader.

Two-plus years ago I traveled to Chiapas in southern Mexico and met with Pablo Salazar, then newly elected governor of that state.Salazar’s election in the state where the rebel Zapatista movement was strongest was remarkable not only because he had broken away from the ruling Mexican PRI party to run as an independent but also because he was and is a devout Protestant in a predominantly Roman Catholic region.

In Mexico, Protestant Christians are known as “evangelicos.” Economic and sometimes physical persecution of evangelicos by Catholics in Chiapas and other rural regions of Mexico is a regular occurrence.

In that conversation, Salazar spoke of the pressure he was receiving from his evangelico supporters to advocate legislation and issue executive orders favorable to their interests.

Salazar responded by reminding them that he was elected governor of all the people of Chiapas, including Catholics and atheists and not just evangelicos. He told them he would only take such actions as he believed served the good of all.

His response produced angry reactions from many in his evangelico constituency who felt he had turned his back on them.

Salazar and Evans are separated by culture, geography and a generation of time. But both men exemplify one enormously important character trait in a statesman: a generous spirit.

It is a spirit that enables political leaders to act with magnanimity toward opponents and detractors, no matter how shrill they may be, and to understand that they are elected to serve their entire constituency, and not just those who support them. (emphasis added–m)

Go read the whole thing. All I can say to this man with whom I probably disagree on any number of things is:

“Me too.” And I wish I could have said it as well.

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