How Can Anyone Be a True Believer?

How Can Anyone Be a True Believer? September 11, 2012

And no, I’m not talking about religion; I’m talking about politics. I watch bits and pieces of the Republican and Democratic national conventions and have the same response I had when covering campaign events back in 2008 — I just find them creepy.

I don’t understand how someone could, or why someone would, sit there mindlessly applauding an endless string of cliches, platitudes and shallow applause lines. I don’t know how someone applauds when a speaker says things like “We’re going to get America moving again” or “It’s time to move this country forward.” Those statements are utterly meaningless, completely empty rhetoric devoid of anything even remotely resembling a coherent thought. They’re political cotton candy.

When President Obama says “This election is not about me, it’s about you,” how does any intelligent person cheer and applaud such meaningless tripe? When he says things like this:

“Yes, our path is harder — but it leads to a better place. Yes, our road is longer — but we travel it together. We don’t turn back. We leave no one behind. We pull each other up. We draw strength from our victories and we learn from our mistakes, but we keep our eyes fixed on that distant horizon, knowing that Providence is with us, and that we are surely blessed to be citizens of the greatest nation on Earth.”

How does someone cheer for that? It’s empty pablum. It’s a series of substanceless platitudes. And we should find it insulting, not inspiring.

I understand why someone would think it’s important to vote for Candidate X because Candidate Y supports policies that they strongly dislike, or because Candidate X supports policies you like. But I simply cannot understand getting emotionally invested in someone who is inevitably going to disappoint you, who is feeding you a steady stream of promises that they have little intention of pursuing once in office — either because they recognize the political reality that there’s no way the policy they supported in the campaign will make it through Congress (which is what Obama did with the health care reform bill, immediately discarding the public option he promised to pass because there was no way to get the votes in either the House or Senate) or because they never had any intention of doing it.

I just don’t get it. I’m apparently not capable of feeling that way. I can’t look at a politician — any politician — and invest emotion and hope in them. Yes, that is cynical; it’s also justified, and always has been.

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