When I worked on the campaign for a senate race in the fall, I heard a complaint from voters about the senator we were working for: his teeth were too yellow.
His teeth were too yellow?! How was he going to help people who were affected by the coronavirus? Or the imminent environmental crisis?!
I try as hard as I can to not revere politicians for their lives, or personalities. While I will admit to fangirling over Georgia senator Jon Ossof, it was for his policies and values, rather than looks and charisma, that I supported him.
Sometimes I track Michelle Obama’s outfits (because I think she has fabulous style), but it wouldn’t change my mind about what kind of policies she has brought about. In our system of democratic government, politicians are meant to serve us and should not be treated as celebrities.
Americans elect representatives into office so they can serve our needs. If politicians are over-idolized, the elected officials can lose sight of what actually needs to get done. They will think that their constituents will vote for them, sheerly because they are good-looking or relatable on Twitter. The idolization of politicians is something we need to nip in the bud now.
The President holds the public image of a nation, regardless of who supports them. This role can be taken too far, like when a twitter thread of liberals were enamored by Joe Biden after he told a second-grade girl not to worry about getting COVID-19. It is an expectation, however, that our President holds up a national image for the people and they should not be praised for doing so. While many Biden supporters may be re-watching his interaction with the second grader, they forget about the President’s most crucial job. Above all public image roles, the president runs the executive branch with departments like transportation, education and energy.
Presidents are also a figurehead that American people look to in times of crisis to bring the country together. During 9/11, it was George Bush’s speech that people looked forward to, and when the coronavirus first hit Seattle, it was Donald Trump that Americans looked to for support. In both instances, many people trusted the President because they were a beacon of hope and they liked them as a person. I believe though, that this was very dangerous because both of their actions in these times of crisis were utterly wrong, yet they still held public support because their supporters liked their personality no matter what.
George Bush was someone that people looked to during 9/11 to promise a sense of security. Bush’s actions of going into Iraq did more harm than good. However, the president had higher approval ratings around 9/11 and supported the efforts in Iraq because of his rhetoric and speeches in promising “security.” Bush’s actions in Iraq and Afghanistan not only ripped both countries to shreds, but also created a stigma for many Americans regarding those of Middle Eastern descent.
Donald Trump faced a similar consequence with his dealings with the coronavirus. Since many of his supporters like him for his persona, and not his policy, they followed his attitude and actions towards the virus. This is part of the reason that America is still being ravaged by the virus.
While the President is most frequently in public view, this message is important for elected officials across the board. As Texas was facing statewide blackouts and ice storms, their senator Ted Cruz traveled to Cancun. Cruz received backlash from Texans and Americans across the country, forcing him to return. It was important for his constituents to raise their concerns about him abandoning them in a time of crisis.
However, I am concerned with how his trip overtook the news and social media for days. What should have been dominating during that time was what actions were going to be taken by the Texas government to resolve the looming energy crisis in the state and country. This was the perfect time for the people to discuss the issues at hand and hold the government accountable, when instead there were memes of Cruz on the plane.
This is an important message for college students who are in their early years of voting. It’s really important to form strong habits now, as we are in the middle of the social media age. I encourage all college students to stop watching politicians on Tik Tok, and do their research about policies. If this means turning off CNN for C-SPAN, then so be it.
The country is up against a worsening climate crisis, a structure with grave racial injustices, a failing public health care system and many more. If these issues are not fixed, more innocent Black Americans will be killed, more people will be out of jobs and health care, and millions could lose their homes to the climate crisis. Politicians have some control over these situations, and the people have power over the politicians. If it weren’t for the voters, they would be out of a job. Everyone needs to stop worrying about the color of a politician's teeth and hold them up to a standard as if life depends on it, because it may.
Fiona O’Brien is a reporter for The Beacon. She can be reached at email@example.com.
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