We Should Not Idolize Politicians
Updated: Feb 10, 2021
In a world where Donald Trump was able to lie, manipulate, and fear-monger his way into a Presidency, I understand the need to rejoice in his defeat. What I don’t support, however, is blindly idolizing any political candidate who counters him.
It has been so easy to passionately oppose Trump. He made it so easy with his endless hate-speech and his decision to deem human lives expendable again and again. To vote him out was to demand change; the worst thing we could do is expect it. The kind of change we need to see in this country cannot be anticipated simply because a Democrat will be back in office. We need to remain critical of our President and Vice President-Elect.
Having said that, voting Kamala Harris into office must be celebrated and recognized for how momentous it is. To have a woman as our vice president elect is phenomenal. To have the first female, first Black and first South Asian vice president-elect is monumental. This election has no doubt made an unfathomably large impact, and will no doubt continue to do so in the future.
However, we cannot erase the past, and it would be irresponsible to forget it. During her time as a district attorney, Harris oversaw as many as 1,900 cannabis convictions. She was reportedly neutral in regard to it’s decriminalization, which made sense for a district attorney who worked so closely with police unions. Harris even nicknamed herself “California’s top cop.” There are inconsistencies throughout her political career, inconsistencies which caused harm to people falsely convicted of crimes, people suffering on death row, sex-workers, trans women and men, and immigrants. “according to a Huffington Post report, over 100 immigrant youth in San Francisco were detained or deported due to a 2008 city policy. The policy was implemented by Gavin Newsom, the now governor of California, and was supported by Harris.” (scroll.in) Summed up gracefully in this Time article, “[we] don’t want the conversation around Harris’ candidacy as a biracial woman to ignore her past as a prosecutor, given the impact of the criminal justice system on Black and brown communities.”
With Biden, there is a lengthy career in question. Many believe based on his track record that he will increase our military budget. This raises concerns due to “his inability to defend himself on his record of voting for and defending the Iraq war.” (uchicagogate.com) Another point of concern was his failure to answer for the high number of deportations during the Obama administration. This is especially important as he has made big promises regarding immigration policies. Biden also claims he will act aggressively toward climate-change by re-entering the Paris Agreement, making investments in climate research, and targeting the disproportionate harm that pollution places on low-income and POC communities. However, he and Harris both have a record of supporting fracking. “No matter how progressive Biden’s proposals may be, the presence of pro-fossil fuel advisors in his campaign places doubt on Biden’s willingness to fight for and implement these proposals once in office.” (uchicagogate.com)
Something I want to emphasize is the importance of not idolizing politicians to a point of false-familiarity. There is no such thing as a perfect politician. Spreading “relatable” images of them exhibits and reinforces a feeling of closeness that can be very dangerous. An article from the Smoke Signal makes a similar point, stating that “Allowing our emotions to shape our political landscape also results in the loss of political discourse on all sides of the spectrum” Beyond that, it clouds our own judgement, making us feel as if this elected official is our safety net, as if they are looking out for our best interests, so we don’t have to fight anymore. This won’t ever be the case in the world of politics, which is why it is so important that we catch ourselves when and if we stop paying attention. Your guard should come down quite a bit with Trump out of office, but not completely. In a functional democracy, those elected are expected to listen to the people. For the people to be heard, we must first do our part and pay attention.
Ultimately, “do not rejoice” is the last thing I’m trying to say. I’m simply reminding everyone, myself included, to rejoice thoughtfully. To understand that it is our job to be mindful and to criticize - even kicking and screaming.
I urge anyone reading this to take the time to do more research on the subjects mentioned is this article. For reference, linked below are all of the excellent resources I used while writing this:
Joe Biden's Political Career:
Criticizing the Obama Administration
Kamala Harris' career history:
History of her time as CA Attorney General/ San Francisco DA
Time Article on her Biracial Identity
CNN: Outlook on her historic win
Dangers of Idolization:
I also wanted to share this poem by Kenyan poet Mũkoma wa Ngũgĩ, as it highlighted my thoughts on Kamala Harris' past actions and abuse of power:
This Is What I Know by Mũkoma wa Ngũgĩ
"I must know that those before me did not die so that I could use
my freedom to put others in jail; or use the same laws that betrayed
them to enslave and torture."