Column: The politics of humanity

Vivian Zhao, Editor in Chief, Editorial Editor & Columnist

When, on Feb. 11, Yang dropped out of the presidential race, I felt a bit of regret. I didn’t entirely agree with his policies, but he brought diversity, intellect and most importantly, humanity to the political stage. 

Sure, politics isn’t always about the person you are: there are far more intricacies than that. In fact, many of the “legendary” politicians we learn of have complex and even troubling histories. Yet it’s frustrating that politics have become so polished, so full of rhetoric and name-calling and so lacking in authenticity (both factually and personally).

So when Yang, in a behind the scenes clip of the New York Times’ “The Choice” podcast, made dad jokes, that simple gesture resonated with me, despite the jokes themselves being rough.

The issue of humanity in politics, however, extends far beyond Yang’s humor, or the lack thereof (I’m kidding; it wasn’t that bad).

 As someone who just became eligible to vote, the apparent limits to my political expression were frustrating, especially when others questioned the credibility of my peers and I given our age.

It’s all the more irritating that certain issues are ridiculed, ignored or even denied by those from older generations when such issues would affect us the most. 

Take climate change, for example. Too many politicians deny that it exists. In fact, one once threw a snowball on the Senate floor to disprove it. The Senate is, on average, 62 years old. 

Many of us- the teenagers, for example, whose credibility is questioned when we participate in political discourse- are the ones who will experience the increasing destruction that accompanies Washington’s non solutions.

Or, perhaps, politicians aren’t doing anything because they don’t believe climate change exists; perhaps, there’s a greater interest that outweighs signs of climate change. Companies spend hundreds of millions of dollars annually to prevent the passage of effective environmental legislation, which is bound to sway political decisions.

I’m not saying that politicians should eschew funding. Money is critical to raising awareness about platforms and issues, after all. But in the absence of lobbying, would our futures be of greater importance? 

Humanity should be a motivating factor in political decisions. 

It’s difficult, perhaps, to distinguish between what’s good for a politician’s career or constituents, nor must they be mutually exclusive. 

There are small steps we can and should take. Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders are emphasizing 100% grassroots funding for their presidential campaigns. That means their campaigns’ success is derived from popular support, both politically and financially, reducing the temptation to solely act in tandem with corporate interests. 

It’s necessary for a politician to take time to visit constituents, too, and not just for campaign rallies. I doubt there will be a politician in the near future who has immediate understanding of all backgrounds in the United States. 

Though it certainly won’t solve the issue of disproportionate representation in the government, it can alleviate issues of underrepresentation, especially if politicians speak more with minorities and lower income Americans that historically lack a political voice. 

An LA Times article did a wonderful job of demonstrating the effect of this: after author Nita Lelyveld asked the homeless about how others could help them, the results were far more insightful than if she’d simply maintained the original distance between their lives. 

I don’t believe that democrats or republicans are inherently villainous; many of them share the same values. 

At its crux, the core of politics should be humanity and the debate should be methodology, not morals. 

Feel free to call me idealistic. But am I wrong?