Politics is a strange game. What seems to be a most necessary ability for a politician is to be able to state positions on various subjects that sound good in the moment, and are defensible sometime later when confronting a hostile interviewer, and a hostile audience. The two party political system fosters these kinds of protean statements which leads to the contending parties non-sequitur style verbal dueling, and it seems to make everyone look dumb. They look like they haven’t thought deeply about their subject matter, and are not responding to the questions because they are forced to make statements which appear to be clear, and precise to the public, but which are difficult to twist into some alternate form which can be easily attacked by their opponents.
Arguments between Republicans and Democrats are discussed in a declarative framework reminiscent of the Freedom Fighter versus Terrorist dichotomy. From the presenter’s point of view, “we are the freedom fighters, and the opposition are the terrorists.” But from the other’s point of view they would say, “we are the freedom fighters and they are the terrorists.” The problem boils down to the fact that the difference between the contending parties is not a real difference between the political positions, but a difference in who is backing each individual or party, and what they need do or say to win, and maintain the power of office. This distinction was known to Saint Dominic, founder of the Dominican Order in 1216 who claimed, “Zeal must be met by zeal, humility by humility, false sanctity by real sanctity, preaching falsehood by preaching truth.”
The difference between politicians and terrorist combatants’ philosophy is in their claimed responsibility to a higher legal system to which the various combatants claim they are subscribing. Usually all sides claim to represent God, and The People, and The Inherent Rights of Man, and some other highly respectable, but nebulous abstractions, but for all of them the accountability is rather nebulous, and the obvious goal is power over the people.
The politicians are members of a legal community within which the nation’s laws can be called forth if there is foul play, and supposedly those who step outside of the laws can be brought to justice within the system. Freedom Fighters have no such limitations, and claim to be responsible only to a higher standard of goodness above a nation’s laws. They will claim that the laws were made by humans, and therefore they don’t have to obey them since the laws are no better than human suggestions by some controlling establishment. But because they choose to not to respect the laws, and operate outside of the laws, they tend to commit crimes ,and thus become legal enemies of the state and therefore they must operate in secret. Thus the primary difference between Freedom Fighters within a state, and the politicians of that state is how the political conflict is moderated by the enforcement of the legal standards of the state.
All of these various parties must ultimately depend upon the good will of the greater mass of people whom they claim to represent if they are to maintain a base of support. To a great extent it is a propaganda war, and whoever is best able to manipulate the public mind to gain the most support becomes the leader, and gains the power of legitimacy. No one is able to present an idea or live a life that cannot be challenged by an opponent, because the challenge doesn’t have to make any consistent sense. The purer the idea is and the more understandable it is the easier it is to attack. The basic principle here is, “Every great idea has an equal and opposite great idea.” However, in the longer run it is best to make sensible arguments, and accusations because they will prove more durable and garner more long term support.
The American political system has a great deal of support for political conflict built right into its constitution, and this makes for a lot of verbal abuse, but it also makes for the exposure of malfeasance and incompetence. Where equally powerful parties are contending for the rights to office any performance of misdoing by one party will probably be exposed by the opposing party, and this forces all politicians to live seemingly exemplary lives. Or at least do their best to make it appear so and they must become masters of whitewashing, and cover-up if they are to survive. But even in this essential skill if they are caught in a cover-up they are in serious trouble, and so they must master those skills early in life.