People should really start taking political advice from… Oprah?
The actress and television personality recently called for Obama’s critics to show “a certain level of respect” towards the President, noting that the office is one that should hold a sense of authority over the American people. It seems these days that political attacks have become especially combative and unnecessarily harsh—maybe the solution is just teaching people to play nice.
|Jan Brewer gives President Obama a piece of her mind |
at the Phoenix airport in January / AP Photo
We cannot forget the beauty of American democracy: that free speech allows us disagree openly about the policies of our president and other leaders. But regardless of whether or not you agree with Obama’s policies, it’s not appropriate to blatantly disrespect the office of the President. It’s similar to the argument that Congressmen have fewer cross-partisan friendships now than they used to; people will be more willing to compromise and work out differences if they show even a basic level of respect for one another.
So what kind of disrespect am I describing? Let’s take Jan Brewer, governor of my home state of Arizona and harsh critic of Obama’s immigration policies. She was recently photographed on an airport runway wagging her finger at President Obama and lecturing him about his immigration policies. She even referred to the President as “thin-skinned” on Fox News and ignored the President at a recent visit to the White House.
The photo brings up an important question of respect in Washington and whether or not it has an impact on gridlock within the political process. Would our country run more smoothly if our leaders respected each other more? I’d argue that it would, and that politicians need a couple of lessons on how to separate their problems with a person’s policies from their ability to form a positive relationship with that person in the first place.
Solutions for this problem are more difficult to find and might end up have lower impacts. While you can’t pass a law restricting someone’s ability to disrespect the president, you can pass legislation or increase public pressure to encourage the fostering of relationships. One possible solution for forming more friendships among congressmen was mixed-party seating during House sessions and during the State of the Union. With the case of other national leaders though, public pressure might be what’s necessary to shift the discourse on how our national leaders should treat each other. A public campaign about leadership ethics and massive support from leaders’ constituencies would help, but it’s only a start towards more respectful and friendly political leaders.