Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Politician or Statesman?

            Trying my best to be an informed voter, I tuned in to the recent Republican debate. I felt a bit like I do when I go to a shopping mall—overwhelmed. When it comes to clothes, home improvement, laundry detergent . . . I’m the type that likes two or three choices. More than that and I’m confused.
            So as I watched the abundance of Republican hopefuls the other night, I decided I needed to find some sort of criteria/criterion that would narrow my options.  
            Being as this was a Republican debate, the candidates and I agreed for the most part on issues. So the issues weren’t . . . well, an issue. But as I watched the posturing, the often canned responses, the occasional heated moments, it became apparent some candidates were clearly more skilled at explaining the problems we face as a country and what they planned to do about them. I started thinking about that, and the word statesman came to mind.

            To confirm I was on the right track, I consulted the dictionary. Concerning politicians, the definitions ran the gamut from "a person skilled in political government or administration; a statesman or stateswoman" to "a seeker or holder of public office who is more concerned about winning favor or retaining power than about maintaining principles." (They might as well have said “see bottom-feeding scum-sucker” for that last one.)
            The definitions for statesmen/stateswoman were a little kinder: "a person experienced in the art of government or versed in the administration of government affairs; a person exhibiting great wisdom and ability in directing the affairs of a government or in dealing with important public issues."
            On first reading, those definitions did nothing to solve my quandary. In fact, they seemed to suggest that politicians and statesmen weren’t that different. It seemed that to be either, there had to be a firm grounding in the ins and outs (read that “wheeling and dealing”) of government.
            While I don’t buy into the notion that all politicians are on-the-take sleaze balls (although some definitely are), neither do I believe that experience in government is necessary to be an effective chief executive. The definition of statesman seemed to suggest that. But then I read it again and noticed that little two-letter word: or.
            Statesmen don’t have to have experience in government. Just because people haven’t held a public office, it doesn’t mean they don’t possess skill in dealing with important public issues. They might have demonstrated this ability in other ways. To suggest a couple: through volunteerism, through the way they run their lives/businesses.
            And so I was able to establish my final criteria. My candidate of choice must fit my definition of a statesman: one who exhibits great wisdom and ability in dealing with important public issues and has the skill to effectively communicate those qualities. That narrows my choices considerably.