Politician, not Providence

Staffer discusses dangers of glorifying politicians, advocates for awareness

On January 20, Donald Trump’s presidency came to an end. After over two months of conspiracy theories, violent protests against baseless claims of election fraud and a deadly riot at the Capitol, the Trump-election saga was over. But the controversies that shrouded last year’s election revealed a dangerous trend: idolizing our politicians.

Generally, when we glorify politicians, deeming them as “higher beings,” their support is no longer determined by their policies or actions; rather, their characteristics and their personability. 


The individual characteristics of a politician are still necessary factors that shape the public’s opinion about them. However, if their policy is not put at a priority, they may have the power to act immorally in office while still maintaining their voter base. This effectively grants such politicians a dangerous amount of influence over our government. 


Looking back, the insurmountable loyalty of Trump’s followers was what caused the election controversy in the first place, which in turn led to months of confusion that finally led to the insurrection of the Capitol on January 6. In perceiving him as a god-like figure, Trump’s supporters rallied behind him and denied any possibility of an election loss, with a staggering 85 percent of them claiming the election to be “stolen.”


Right before windows were smashed, chambers invaded and guns fired, Trump rallied his supporters outside the White House and drafted them in a war against the election results.


“Fight for Trump! Fight for Trump! Fight for Trump!” Trump’s supporters chanted at the “Save America” rally just before they marched to the Capitol.


Because of their unwavering obedience to Trump’s commands, the crowd did exactly as he wished, leaving a trail of destruction in their wake as the world watched in horror. New evidence released at Trump’s second impeachment trial on February 10 reveal how his tweets during the raid directly influenced his supporters’ actions. Indeed, Trump’s god-like control over his supporters revealed just how easy it was for one “elevated” politician to wreak havoc in our democracy. 


Now, although Trump’s presidency is a thing of the past, the idolization of politicians are not. Although not as loyal nor as violent as Trump’s fanbase, that of Vice President Kamala Harris reflects idolization that transverses party lines.


Harris, being the first female Vice President and a daughter of immigrants, reflects the ultimate story of success and serves as an idol for millions across the nation. While such perceptions are not dangerous on their own—Harris’ achievements are incredibly admirable and should definitely be recognized—it should not be the first thing we remember when we think of her.


Instead of following Harris due to her ethnicity or gender, her support should be based on her endorsed policies in office. For one, her controversial policies as the attorney general of California—criticized for being too moderate—have been undermined by her radical image. Yes, background is important, but policy must be center-stage. Increasing emphasis on a politician’s policies and actual actions in office holds them accountable for making responsible decisions that benefit the constituency even after they are elected. 


In order to materialize these changes, both politicians and voters must take action. Looking back at Trump, renowned psychologist Robert Jay Lifton argues that by repeatedly lying in office, the former president painted an imaginative idealization of his policies, the state of the nation and himself; such as his downplaying of the COVID-19 pandemic. In a sense, Trump’s glorification of himself led to idolization from his supporters.


If politicians have the ability to blatantly lie to the public about their ability to lead, they no longer need to admit their faults and mistakes. As a result, they can convey themselves as a perfect, flawless leader when it is simply not true. So, politicians must take responsibility for their missteps in office and must not push relevant issues to the side just to maintain their dignity. For Harris, this means openly accepting her past controversies instead of masking them with her more appealing persona.


More importantly, voters must be mindful that politicians may deviate from speaking the truth. For example, had Trump’s supporters restrained from blindly following baseless claims of election fraud, the deadly insurrection on the Capitol would likely not have happened. Ultimately, as it is difficult to ensure that politicians will always be transparent with their weaknesses, voters must do independent research on politicians’ background and policies instead of trusting everything they claim to be. Generally, being more conscious of far-fetched claims is a viable strategy to reduce glorification.


Idolizing politicians not only harms us but also our democracy as a whole. We must understand the unique position that politicians take in society—as those with power, but not unlimited power—in order to fulfill the values our nation was founded upon.