As the political season ends (with its heated debates, sharp attack ads, and comic sound bites), people are left exhausted. A kind of energy spent similar to playing a game in overtime or rooting for a favorite losing team. In fact, many have suggested that the “arena of politics” have all of the same characteristics we see in professional competition: Teams, Rivalries, Fans, even Sportscasters, all with An Objective to Win.
What is it about politics and the voting season (present, past, or future) that is so obsessed with winning? Shouldn’t the focus be different, larger, and beyond any tussle between supposed opponents?
Political seasons should be a time where all people learn about how to improve their society through the educative practice of Democracy.
I am reminded of what I heard from a well-known politician. To paraphrase: “Politics is not about winning, but standing up for what you believe in, and thus, allowing that to win…” At first, I remember nodding my head in agreement, feeling that this captures the essence of democracy: A willingness to come out in front with your beliefs and argue for their importance. However, in large measure, recent politics already confront others’ beliefs and argue for winning positions. In fact, these kinds of arguments (and disagreements) have resulted in a continual competitive sports-cycle of politics.
What has been missing is achieving “end goals” without finding winners. It must remind us why anyone would want to run for politics, or any advocate willing to speak out against injustices, or any voter deciding on which candidate to choose from. In other words,the essence or end goal of Democracy is a mutual sharing of ideas for a common purpose that continually improves our society.
Perhaps the role of Educators and Learners is to facilitate such discussions, arguments, and debates for Democracy, where all participants can educate and learn from each another with respect and friendship. When these issues are left to only political opponents, the larger purpose is often overlooked, leaving us, as spectators, feeling bankrupt either in time, in dollars, or in-spiration unfortunately, which is another missed opportunity for compromise, agreement, and continued engagement.
As the smoke clears from current political battles, and the next political season arrives again, perhaps all of us in society might consider the areas that we must educate and learn from each other, and the arguments and ideas that can guide us—not for winning the election or crowning a winner, but for facilitating a Democracy.