We’ve heard it all before. In fact, we actually hear it every day. You can’t catch the daily news without hearing someone complain about our politicians. Our current U.S. 113th Congress is actually well on track for being the least productive Congress in recent history. With smear campaigns and media scandals being a majority of the PR for our politicians, it’s easy to conclude that gone are days of good politicians. Let’s be honest, this can be frustrating. Thinking about the incompetency and immorality of the people technically supposed to be in charge of our country is kind of irritating.
However, before discouragement and frustration settle in, it’s important to note that the conclusion is heavily dependent on the definition of a “good politician.” “Good” is a subjective, generic term; for any conclusions to be drawn, it has to be very strictly defined.
Conventionally, “good” is defined by ethical or moralstandards- in context of politicians, it’s often taken to mean an honest, hard-working, and genuine candidate. By those standards, good politicians in America- and really the rest of the world- are hard to come by. In fact, judging by the popularity of shows like The Daily Show With Jon Stewart and The Colbert Report, we’ve collectively lost all faith in our politicians ever being “good” candidates. However, should we really be holding our lawmakers to such a naïve standard? In a reading from my PolSci 101 class, Weber argues that we shouldn’t.
It makes sense. With the responsibility and power that they are given, it’s silly to hold them to standards of “good” that we would hold ourselves to. In Politics as a Vocation, Weber proposes a simpler and much more fitting standard for policy makers. A Good politician (with a capital ‘g’) must have three things: passion, judgment, responsibility. It’s very straightforward, really. A politician has to be passionate- not compulsive or spontaneous, but committed to their cause. They have to have strong judgment, an unwavering belief that their cause justifies whatever steps need to be taken- a sort of Machiavellian “the ends justify the means” mentality. Finally, they have to bear responsibility- they have to be continuously aware of how their actions will affect the future. These standards mold an effective and rational model for politicians.
Historically, there have been a few high profile leaders who fit this model even though they defy the conventional idea of “good”. Men like Napoleon, Lenin, and even Hitler definitively fit the mold with their assertive, charismatic, and forward-thinking leadership.
So even in today’s joke-riddled American political arena, good politicians can still be found. Although, to avoid giving away my clear political bias, I’ll shy away from naming names.