Nothing could be faker — or duller — than a general election competition between Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush. These establishment sweethearts, Clinton especially, are perfect typecasts of the “Politician’s Personality” — a robotic, craven, vacillating personality type that, here in law school, I’m way too familiar with.
To those with the Politician’s Personality, truth counts for zilch. Like Clinton’s “evolved” position on gay marriage, like Bush’s slightly less hawkish outlook on the Iraq War blunder, political opinions are always in flux, because principles come second to a baser motive — ambition. The raw, Nietzschean will to power. A combination of desires — including some vague yearning for social change — might smolder within such a person’s soul, but ambition is the hottest coal, and it burns through all the rest.
No matter how much I dislike the ideas of men like Ben Carson, I can’t deny an appeal in their willingness to, as Ralph Nader puts it, “shake things up.” To ostensibly say what they think — without excessive qualification or ersatz equivocation. To cast off the politician’s mask and to reveal the imperfect human hiding beneath. To take risks.
Voting for Clinton, like voting for Marco Rubio, is like trying to grasp a shadow. We can’t know who Clinton really is, we can’t have confidence in the data used to cast our vote, because we can’t know that she means what she says. How could we? Her opinions “evolve” more rapidly than the most tenacious bacterium adapts to antibiotics. Like Martin O’Malley, like others cowering beneath the Politician’s Personality, Clinton comes off as excessively tailored. Made for TV. She will make a great president, an extremely competent one actually, but she won’t inspire. That same fact explains the dearth of enthusiasm surrounding Bush’s candidacy, and would probably be hurting Clinton more if there were more Democrats aside from Bernie, outspoken people possessing real conviction such as Elizabeth Warren, posing a real challenge. If Hillary Clinton wins the Democratic Primary, I’ll be voting for her. But I won’t be excited.
Talking about Bernie, it’s easy to see his appeal. Compared to Clinton, Bernie is stubborn. His leftist beliefs have, to borrow Chafee’s phrasing, remained locked in granite. While Clinton’s political evolution — on everything from gay marriage to the Iraq War — appropriates the rapid pace of microbes, his evolution is more long-term, more natural, more like the changes normal Americans — those not marred by a Politician’s Personality — undergo. The reason is simple: Bernie is a real person, both inside and outside of the political arena. For Bernie, political expediency comes second to moral integrity. Like Carson and perhaps Trump, albeit more intelligently, Bernie mostly says what he thinks. Period.
Perhaps, in a two-party system like ours, a Politician’s Personality is a necessary precondition for success. Perhaps Bernie is thus too idealistic to win. We elect Bill Clintons and Ronald Reagans — not Michael Dukakises and Barry Goldwaters. And opinionated politicians tend to grow stale as the Politician’s Personality infects and then parasitizes them; compare the Barack Obama of 2006-2008 to the Barack Obama of today.
But by rewarding establishment politicians such as Clinton with elected office, we reward reticence over candor, the wearing of political masks over the brave courage that masks nothing. Our public debate grows less real, stymies.
And — tragically — so does our political discourse.
This piece was originally published at The Huffington Post.
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