I often have to remind myself, life is a choice. When my great-grandmother came to America, it was a choice. When my grandfathers enlisted in the military, it was a choice. When I got myself involved in politics, it was a choice. We make choices, and we live with the consequences, good and bad.
Politics has done some amazing things for me. It’s taken me across the country. It’s introduced me to life long friends. It’s allowed me to live at the pinnacle of American power. Senators, Congressmen, Governors, state legislative leaders, even Presidents- I’ve had the opportunity to interact with them, work for them, and even occasionally influence them. The one thing I’ve never had to do is lie awake at night and wonder if I’ve tried to make the world a better place on the issues I care about most. I’m pretty at peace with that.
There is another side to everything in life. Professional politics changes everyone in it. The 19 year old version of me was far feistier and idealistic than me of today. You learn that real politics isn’t about getting everything you want, and standing on principle to the point of failure is not noble, but idiotic. You learn to compromise with the hand of cards your dealt, even when you don’t want to. You realize at some point there is so much human suffering that you can’t possibly fix it all, no matter how much you do. You realize that human progress yields new issues to combat, literally every day. You learn that the problem solvers are hated by virtually everyone on both sides of the electorate. You realize that in politics, there is no “end”- even obvious truth can and will be spun to fit a narrative that lets both sides fight on, and that even the most discredited policy solutions will still find support in their wings, because their world view must be right.
Perhaps the most disappointing piece you learn in politics is that which you learn about the people, those you fight for and against. That a 30 second ad can move opinions dramatically, if there’s enough money to repeat it enough. That even an absolute clown that is nominated for President by one of the two major parties will get 46% of the vote. That political polarization and extremes, despite being decried by virtually everyone in America, are where the energy is in American politics, and they are what attract people to become active in the process. That talking points are being “on message,” while in-depth thought is “dangerous.” That ideological purity has destroyed the compromise politics of your grandparents, because the two sides literally want different and opposing things now. That a functional country is a secondary goal to ideology for most of those that are in the process. That our current state of politics doesn’t represent the majority of Americans, let alone the “middle 50%” of us.
But hey- this is what I signed up for. I know the truths, and I know the consequences.