Updated: Oct 23, 2020
Tell me you’ve had this feeling too: some days, I think politics really isn’t that hard.
Or at least how it ends up playing out in my life practically. I don’t do anything in politics beyond voting and discussing it occasionally with people in my life. I don’t go out of my way to campaign for a candidate, I’ve never given money to a campaign. Basically, I have some principles from my worldview, study of political philosophy, and some working knowledge of a handful of issues. I use these as a filter for whom to vote for every 2-4 years.
But then other days, politics seems unmanageably complicated, difficult, and exhausting. I found myself just last night in an anxious state - like there was something wrong, not all is well in my world, and the feeling that I can’t do much about it.
I wonder how much of this is a product of how our news cycle operates. For instance, do you remember the Mueller Report? There was an investigation to see if President Trump was caught up in some collusion with Russia and any obstruction of justice to prevent misdealings from being discovered. Those who know more about it might say, “Clint, you are way over-simplifying it, here’s why it is important for x, y, z.” You’re probably right. I remember at the time tracking mostly with the twists and turns of that investigation. The name “Mueller” was taking up far more mental bandwidth than it does now. But now? It feels like none of that energy I spent trying to understand that event matters much.
I suspect that the things I am now spending my time on to “become more informed” will have the same fate. How much should I be concerned about one particular comment about QAnon? How much should I dive into Biden’s various claims about the Moody-reviewed tax plan he’s offering or the recent allegations concerning his son? Will these things too become a small artifact of the past that I spent too much time trying to figure out? Seems so.
To further frustrate matters, it is extraordinarily difficult to make evidential progress in the figuring-it-out. I am not a tax-expert. I am not fluent with the actual details and dangers of conspiracy theories. Perhaps I should continue to walk down the roads of both to make a more informed decision. But it is an awful lot of knowledge to acquire that really isn’t that helpful to accomplishing the things I care most about such as being a good husband, father, friend, son, brother, co-worker, co-laborer in the kingdom of God, etc…
I mean, honest to God, should I really be spending 90 minutes on a weeknight diving into news articles, cross-referencing sources, watching old footage to find contradictions, listening to entire hearings and proceedings, when I could be reading a story to my kids, playing a game with them, or taking my wife out on a date?
Truly, it makes me sad and worried that I’ve already dumped too much time into all of this and have missed out on special moments.
Despite these pangs of guilt, I also feel the impetus to be a responsible, informed voter and community member. Yet, the path toward knowledge on the dozens of other topics/policies that would be relevant to the vote and understanding the political climate is fraught with misinformation or misrepresentation. Facts are damn hard to come by, which I think we can all agree is surprising given how accessible “information” is, or maybe it’s not so surprising in retrospect.
Whether one is embroiled in the complicated morass that I’ve just described or is happily content with a handful of principles and letting ‘er rip in the voting booth, there is an even more depressing reality at play.
I recently interviewed Former Congressman Jim Renacci who served as Ohio’s 16th District Representative through most of the 2010s. He left Washington after seeing how corrupt and disloyal politicians were, even in his own party. I feel more convinced that the rules of our federal system encourage a pursuit of power rather than what is good for actual citizens. This takes the wind out of my sails quite a bit. Even if I did the herculean work to discern who the informed, virtuous person would vote for, it would just be inserting an old cog into a crappy machine.
I will vote. I will cast a vote armed with conviction, data, and a cloud of witnesses that support my decision. But, I’m less hopeful than ever that things will get better. Jim says that hope lies in the States, and that’s interesting to me. I’ve never paid much attention to State governance and policies, and I will do so more after having heard Jim’s perspective. If this sounds interesting to you as well, tune in; we talk about this solution toward the end of the interview.
To hear my conversation with Jim, you can watch on Youtube, or listen on your favorite podcatcher.
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