While the ignorance and blind faith of many far-right extremists may seem well removed from the practice of informed voting, they may not be quite as different as we think. Politicians have often gained celebrity status in history, and as always, history seems to repeat itself. Despite the hope that President Biden’s 2020 defeat of former President Trump sparked, glorifying politicians like Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris is unwise and potentially very harmful. Even glorifying people like Senator Bernie Sanders or Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, though understandably rooted in the hope their positive actions bring, is unwise.
Left-wing voters often criticize Trump supporters for their unwavering support for his destructive actions, but forget to fact-check and critique left-wing politicians. Critique must remain the number one outlook a citizen has for their politicians, for due to our country’s flawed political system (such as the influence of money in politics and the polarized party system) politicians will always fail us in some way; it’s their prerogative. We all have a duty to strive for the well-being of our society and its individual members, and that responsibility cannot be fulfilled if we do not remain active in democracy. Critiquing politicians vigilantly is an integral part of this.
It is good to spotlight the positive actions of a politician like Biden or Harris when they exist as the lesser of two evils in an active political race, but blindly supporting a politician never leads to meaningful change. Politicians exist as public servants, and as such their actions should always be upheld to the standard of what is absolutely just and good.
If your doctor messed up the dosage of one of your medications, you would likely be concerned. If you heard that they have a history of malpractice or incorrect diagnoses, you would question them about it. We view doctors as having authority, like politicians, but, on the contrary, we aren’t afraid to question a doctor’s practices, for we know that harm can follow from the slightest mistake. We are so accustomed to the chronic moral failings of our current political system that we have become desensitized to how bad it truly is, and blind to alternatives. But our two-party system is crumbling, and we are at a moment where universal vigilance and accountability must take the place of polarization as we rebuild.
Politicians are allowed to buy and invest in the stock market they write legislation about and receive monetary support from the same oil companies and massive corporations that they are supposed to keep in check. Politicians need money and greedy corporations love to give it, making D.C. home to the biggest power struggles this country knows. We must never place implicit trust in those who have the ability to gain something from our oppression.
Former President Obama is often used as the poster child for the Democratic Party, yet his administration committed war crimes through many drone strikes in Palestine and Yemen, and was never tried or held accountable. He is also the first Nobel Peace Prize winner to bomb another winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, Doctors Without Borders, when he bombed one of their hospitals in Afghanistan. Let that fact sink in. Moreover, President Biden wrote the 1994 Crime Bill, a bill that intensified the racist and systemic violence of the War on Drugs by creating stricter sentences for drug-related offenses, affecting thousands of people of color, who are disproportionately likely to be incarcerated. Also, like many US presidents, Biden has not followed through with many promises from his presidential campaign, such as banning new fracking on federal land and increasing access to affordable housing.
Even idolizing politicians like AOC, whose personal history and political career display no obvious offenses, is not healthy for democracy. She may seem perfect, but she isn’t. Her job, like all Congresspeople’s, is ultimately dictated by the imperatives of money and power that structure Amherst politics. We must remain vigilant and informed. We must always scrutinize the actions of those who hold power.
Amherst is a very left-leaning institution. While it’s easy for us to fall into the trap of glorifying political figures who enact some positive change, it’s important that we don’t. I believe students need to be more involved in politics, not just talk about them. We must not live in a state of complacency, and we must always try and better our world. Always vote in local and federal elections and sign meaningful petitions. Call and write to your local and federal representatives. Politicians will always fail us in some way, so keep a critical eye on them at all times and stay involved in enacting change.