“After damning politicians up hill and down dale for many years, as rogues and vagabonds, frauds and scoundrels, I sometimes suspect that, like everyone else, I often expect too much of them.” 

—H.L. Mencken

This is my fifth national campaign season to witness firsthand, and I must confess that I have developed a tradition at the outset of every presidential election year. Every four years, I make a quiet promise to myself to remain as detached as possible in my support for anyone for president. In essence, don’t fall in love with politicians!

This has always been an easy promise for me to make and keep, as I have long been disposed to a particular desire I suspect is forever destined for disappointment – that no one will be president. Man is not fit to rule over man, even the man duly elected by his fellows to much fanfare. I genuinely believe this.

I still vote, but I do so dispassionately and reluctantly. Voting should be treated as a stoic duty at best, not some torrid love affair or romantic adventure.  

Consider me akin to those two old men from “The Muppet Show,” Statler and Waldorf, sitting in a theater box watching the American political arena. I’m not happy with what I see – I find it all so frustratingly absurd – but I still show up on election day in my usual curmudgeonly way. I am genuinely a disinterested party when it comes to supporting one presidential candidate over another. There is a world elsewhere, even if only a world of internal exile, much more beautiful and enduring than presidential politics.

Despite my aloof pose and anarchic disposition, I do love my fellow Americans and hope to see this dear nation of ours flourish. I have hope for America’s future – that she will serve as a beacon of liberty for all the world to emulate. Dare I say? I would love to see America made great again!  

Yet, since I am not a diehard supporter of Donald Trump or Joe Biden, consider me a neutral third party, a wise fool here to serve you, “the people,” as a fellow traveler providing counsel, come what may. 

From this neutral place – with love for you and contempt for political ambition – I feel obliged to advise those of you in love with any given presidential candidate this 2024 election cycle: Please, guard your heart.

I do not expect many of you to follow my advice. That’s the thing with being in love – it turns us absolutely dense, quick to play fast and loose with the truth and our well-being. Love, even when worthwhile, is never without its agonies.

“When one is in love,” writes Oscar Wilde, “one always begins by deceiving one’s self, and one always ends by deceiving others,” and this is especially true of the love between the politician and the crowd.

Crowds of all stripes are notoriously more idiotic and immoral than the average person, but a crowd head-over-heels in love with a political leader? Well, such a throng is usually downright dangerous, deceptive, and dimwitted – despite the intelligence and talents of the individuals who constitute it. Crowds give us the cover we need to act like total imbeciles, and democracy gives us a pass to act like petty tyrants. The crowd’s collective responsibility under democracy is really no responsibility at all. There is too much moral hazard built into the system whereby all claim to take the blame without ever personally doing so. 

Nevertheless, one by one, the citizens fool themselves each election cycle that a certain politician will be a president not only representative of their interests but also worthy of their love and undying support. Their tragedy is usually getting what they want. 

Again, I’m not asking you to stop supporting Trump or Biden but to check your expectations. The most hopeful hearts break the hardest and aren’t easily mended. If you choose not to heed my advice, that is your right. But that brings us to the tragic moral of most political love affairs. 

Put simply, the government is the problem, and if you expect politicians to remedy that problem, then you expect too much of them. We are not the government. The government is not us. Government is something wholly separate from us, and as much as we would like to think we can control this wild elephant by hopping on its back and tugging at its ears, this behemoth is much more prone to trample upon our livelihoods and liberties than ever protect us – no matter who we may choose to ride on top.

I suppose we must have a president, but I will never fall in love with one. So as you go forth this election year, use your independent mind and let your voice be heard, but also remember to guard your heart and lower your expectations.

Joey Clark is a native Alabamian and is currently the host of the radio program News and Views on News Talk 93.1 FM WACV out of Montgomery, AL M-F 12 p.m. - 3 p.m. His column appears every Tuesday in 1819 News. To contact Joey for media or speaking appearances as well as any feedback, please email [email protected]. Follow him on X @TheJoeyClark or watch the radio show livestream.

The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the policy or position of 1819 News. To comment, please send an email with your name and contact information to [email protected]

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