It’s not uncommon to see the scarlet streak of a MAGA hat as you walk down the street, or the vibrant blue hues of a Biden and Harris mask. And, while it’s not a crime to show pride in a politician’s success or set of beliefs, it’s important to be careful not to give them “celebrity status.” Politicians aren’t influencers- they’re public servants. It’s hard not to see these leaders as more than human sometimes, as they seem to exist in a different world and are capable of much larger change than a mere civilian.
But to idolize them is to shield them from necessary critique. In order for progress to be made, we must hold them accountable.
As far as our previous presidents go, our most reputable representatives are held in high regard, being considered as the pillars of our democracy. Presidents such as Washington, Lincoln, and Kennedy are names easily recognizable to any student, while Van Buren and Polk might not merit the same response. Of course, their accomplishments deserve this esteem as they’ve reshaped our country for the better; but this doesn’t make them perfect men. We can’t treat Washington, a slave owner, as the prime example of an American, or Kennedy, who had an abundance of affairs, as a godlike being. This isn’t to say that we need to “cancel” them for something that was normalized in their time. But cruelty is cruelty, and standards absolutely must change over time. This sort of idolization, while very different from the more common treatment of current politicians, is extremely toxic, and stunts our ability to see both pros and cons of a presidency.
The first noteworthy example of politicians being placed on a pedestal is easily spotted during Obama’s presidency. The viral “bromance” between former President Obama and current President Biden was romanticized, reducing their political impact to pictures posted of DIY friendship bracelets. This, of course, as well as most political idolization, can be blamed on social media, and the ease of spreading a specific message far and wide. Utilizing these methods, politicians can easily market themselves to a younger audience, and share a statement with the entire world in a matter of seconds.
Ever wondered why Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has such a large young following? Look no further than her Twitter and Instagram—she is speaking directly to what is otherwise an underperforming group of voters, and offering to speak on their behalf. Even those who fall outside the borders of her district, those who aren’t her constituents and are therefore not her responsibility, are found among her hundreds of thousands of followers. With these modern seemingly superheroes constantly popping up on your feed, how do you prevent yourself from treating them like the influencers and celebrities you follow? More importantly, is it really that bad to give them special treatment?
In short, yes, it is. When you provide a pedestal for any sort of politician, you are preventing yourself and others from truly holding them accountable. Take Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez for example—you can’t escape all of her accomplishments and accolades, but how often do you hear about her more anti-Semitic policies? Hardly ever, because you’re too busy considering her a “#girlboss,” and posting the same video of her clapping back at a disrespectful senator. This isn’t to say that she’s this awful person who’s never done anything good for this country, but does she not deserve to be held accountable, to be pushed to better represent her people? It’s critiques that allow us to improve, that leads the way to progress, which would otherwise be impossible.
Or former President Trump, who has fans that believe him to be so powerful that they would commit a terrorist attack on the country they claim to love so much. Or, fans that ignore dozens of sexual assault allegations, past lawsuits regarding housing discrimination, and many other damaging and unforgivable attacks to many discriminated peoples residing in this country. If his own followers refuse to hold him accountable for these actions, how can he even be expected to change?
So please, continue to support and encourage your representatives to make the best decisions possible, to lead this country into a time of progress and peace, but remove the rose-colored glasses. The US is run by imperfect people, who make mistakes that they must answer to.