Politicians and statesmen


It’s hard nowadays not to be cynical about politicians. Sometimes I think Washington is too full of politicians just pleased with themselves for being there. Theologian James Freeman Clarke (1810-1888) once observed that “Politicians only think about the next election. Statesmen think about the next generation.” In my view, it’s not a stretch to say that our country is seriously in need of statesmen.

A softer corollary to his observation, but again from J.F Clarke is that: “A politician looks for the success of his party while a statesman for that of his country.”

I’ve come to a determined view of the 2022 elections. I choose to see these contests as not between Democrats or Republicans, but contests between showboats and workhorses, politicians and statesmen.

We have some examples of statesmen right here in Ohio. Rob Portman and Sherrod Brown are legislators who have worked to solve problems. They’re not performance acts. They’re not caught up in the culture wars, or the sophomoric game of who can one-up whom in smearing an opponent’s reputation. They are not known to be political dividers or movers of misinformation.

TV ads prior to the recent primaries in the state gave plenty of evidence of the former, a willingness to say almost anything to denigrate the character of an opponent, or bend the truth, or to say things that are so outrageous they are likely to elevate you into the next news cycle for free additional TV exposure. And yes, that makes today’s media enablers. My mother used to call this conduct negative attention. But negative attention nowadays seems to have become acceptable modes of politicking. It’s a disturbing trend in American politics.

Many political acts today have determined that you go to Congress to get on TV. And the way to get power in Congress is to build up a public platform so everyone in Congress and elsewhere has to listen to you. Most disturbing of all is the fact that truth has become a casualty in today’s political theater. The sad truth is that in the short life of politics, falsehoods and deceptions are more swift weapons than truthfulness. In a political moment, prevarications may win the day, but at the end of the discoverable day, credibility is lost.

It’s not as though political misbehaving didn’t exist in times past. But they seemed to be a part of the political fringes rather than a part of the political mainstream.

Back to showboats vs. workhorses. I’m interested in legislators who will go to our capitals with a statesmanlike focus on solving our problems, rather than spending their energy in character assassination or trying to emulate the Kardashians.

Lord only knows we have problems. Partisanship has been paralyzing.

I’m interested in those running for office who present interesting and innovative ideas as to how we solve America’s supply-chain problems, how we solve our nation’s public health problems, how we put the coronavirus in a box, how we decelerate the cost of pharmaceuticals, how we make progress in solving the world’s escalating climate-change crisis, the nation’s widening income disparity, the effects of Putin’s War and the troubling economic and military tensions between the U.S. and China which are at the root of many of our economic problems.

I’m not interested in conspiracy theories, nor am I interested in candidates who try to convince me who they are most like. I am interested in authenticity, candidates who can convince me of their character and with a sincerity that convinces me of what their priorities are and what they hope to accomplish.

I’ve always admired the life of Eleanor Roosevelt, and her capacity to cogently assess political circumstances and the character strengths and foibles of leadership. She once said that, “Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; and small minds discuss people.”

As we approach the 2022 and 2024 elections, this country is in desperate need of statesmen. It is my fervent hope that voters are as tired as I am with small minds discussing people instead of great minds and potential leaders who want to discuss ideas and solve problems.

Bill Sims is a Hillsboro resident, retired president of the Denver Council on Foreign Relations, an author and runs a small farm in Berrysville with his wife. He is a former educator, executive and foundation president.

Bill Sims Contributing columnist
https://www.timesgazette.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/33/2022/05/web1_Sims-Bill-mug-4.jpgBill Sims Contributing columnist

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