MINOT, N.D. — We put too much stock in the ability of politicians to provide our lives with meaning.
We attribute to politicians the mood of the nation.
We credit them for moral uplift and blame them for social decline.
The politicians, always pompously eager to exaggerate their importance, are happy to go along with this, despite the risk of getting blamed for things they really can't control, and what gets lost in this blizzard of delusional aggrandizement is the government's actual job, which is to fix the damn roads.
Put out the fires.
Police the streets.
We have political leaders obsessed with imposing their preferred cultural outcomes on everyone else by hanging the 10 Commandments in classrooms or promoting a school curriculum that falsely casts Americanism as inherently bigoted.
We can't just blame the politicians.
They're doing what they're told.
There are noisy constituencies who want these policy extracurriculars — there are few impulses that have been with humanity longer than the one that inspires us to use the awesome power of the state to make our neighbors live and worship and think as we do — and that's one of the problems with democracy.
It's a preferable form of social order to the alternatives, sure, but when exercised by the unprincipled it lends itself to the whims of populism.
This is not a general broadside against the culture war (though aren't we all just a little tired of it?) but rather a plea that we pick more responsible venues for that conflict.
It is right and proper that we have debates about morality in our pews, it makes sense to talk about cultural challenges such as racism and other iterations of bigotry in our civic clubs, but by making the culture wars central to politics we have paralyzed our ability to competently govern.
Our politics have grown more histrionic; our government has become less effective.
We should consider ourselves lucky that the COVID-19 pandemic, bad as it was, wasn't much worse.
We should rejoice that nations like China and Russia, threats as they are to our peace and security, aren't behaving more belligerently.
Because I'm not sure our nation, governed as it is by gormless and ratings-obsessed political leaders preoccupied with posturing themselves around the latest social media outrage, is up to handling anything more challenging.
And isn't that a terrible truth to countenance, in light of what our nation has been capable of in the past?
Fix the roads. Control the border. Build the pipelines. Balance the budget.
And stop acting like governing is just a particularly high-profile TikTok challenge.
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Rob Port, founder of SayAnythingBlog.com, is a Forum Communications commentator. Reach him on Twitter at @robport or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.