In the politics of true liberty, amateurs are the only real professionals.
Yesterday the Drudge Report featured a tweet promoting the link to an article about how Steve Bannon and Sean Hannity were allegedly having second thoughts about their support for Judge Roy Moore. Drudge tweeted a banner headline for the link, that bore a picture with the tagline “Bannon turns on Judge Whore.” He introduced the whole screed with a supercilious snuffle: “A Lesson on leaving politics to the professionals.”
If this screed is typical of the Drudge Report, I am happier than ever that his electronic compendium isn’t among the frequently visited sites I keep handy in my browser’s favorites bar. His elitist remark did, however, exactly represent the true nature of the attack against Roy Moore, as well as his own contempt for the republican, constitutional form of self-government the American political system is supposed to implement.
These days the use of the word “professional” is mostly applied to those who are paid for the work they do. So, a professional is someone who works for money. In sports and other endeavors that involve rigorous training or study, it is contrasted with “amateur,” which, at its Latin root, literally means one who acts out of love.
With this analysis in mind, the amateur/professional dichotomy becomes a contrast between acting out of love and acting for pay. However, the same kind of analysis applied to the word “politics” ought to raise a red flag, particularly for people who profess loyalty to the Constitution of the United States.
The word “politics” comes into English from ancient Greek. Its seed is the Greek word usually translated as “city” but which might as well be rendered by the more colloquial “hometown.” In this sentence the city is one’s native place, the locus of family, identity and first allegiance. It has some of the overtones now associated with the word “nation” but implies something more narrowly grounded, more compactly conceived.
For our purposes, we remember it as the root of the Greek word for “citizen,” from which the English word “politics” more directly evolved. Politics was the activity of one who belonged to the city. It usually connoted participation in the various functions that maintained the city as such. People who lived within the bounds of the city but took no part in such affairs were residents, but not citizens. This roughly corresponds to the distinction we still maintain between people who are citizens of the United States and other long-term residents (lawful or not), who are, for political purposes, more than visitors but less than citizens.
The bonds of citizenship are not simply about borders and location. They are about love, duty and the disposition to share the burdens, sacrifices, pride and shame the city requires, suffers or endures. The word also involves a sense of distinction, a prejudice, as it were, that sees other citizens as one’s fellows – somehow well and favorably known – as distinct from strangers who are not. This favorable knowledge was not, however, a matter of individual experience so much as of trust in the common bond of heritage and character citizenship was supposed to represent.
This complex sense of citizenship survives in the context of the United States. Citizenship is still, for us, a matter of love, but also of knowledge; drawn from nature (corporeal family ties) as well as experience. It is a matter of lawful right, but also of heartfelt obligation. So, we speak of duty and love, to and for our nation. And we distinguish between the bonds of admiration, self-interest or self-gratification that others may feel and the patriotism, as we call it, that inclines us to cherish our identity as Americans.
Yet, at its core, who would deny that that patriotism is a complex fruit and permutation of love? Who would deny that we look for it in those we consider electing as our representatives in government, at all levels? We are actually prejudiced against the idea that someone seeks office in order to make money. It smacks of likely bribery and corruption.
Therefore, consider this train of thought: If politics is the business of the citizen, and the citizen is someone who acts out of love for his country, what sense does it make to say or even imply (as Drudge’s patronizing comment does) that politics should be left to professionals?
By the criterion of demonstrated love, Judge Roy Moore is a consummate politician. He has stood, with a sense of unwavering obligation, for the Constitution of our self-government and the principles that justify and enable its existence. With all the stern self-sacrifice of a soldier, willing to suffer and ready to give his all, he has persevered in that service.
The corrupt, self-serving elitists hate him for that very reason. But that’s because they are professionals in the lucrative sense of that term. Their ambition is to woo wealth for the sake of power and use power for the sake of more power. In this endeavor, they regard government as an instrument, to be played for selfish advantage. In their practice, the consummate professional politician is one who waxes rich and powerful from his mastery of that instrument.
If and when they see Matt Drudge’s comment, and similar highhanded drivel like it, citizens in Alabama and elsewhere would do well to remember that, under our form of government, politics is supposed to be the people’s instrument. It exists to make sure those in government represent the goodwill of the people, to do right by their local communities and states, as well as their nation. Because their sovereign role in this respect is justified by principles that appeal to the authority of God, the heart of their goodwill may be said, quite literally, to consist in the love of God, the benefactor of their common good as a nation. People in whom any other motive is paramount do not truly represent them.
A parting shot: Once upon a time, the word professional referred to people who were bound by oath to respect a creed, or code of conduct, which governed their conduct in the deployment of whatever talents, skills or services they offered to others. The bond of their oath was their respect, reverence or affection for those human or divine persons whose existence epitomized faithful adherence to their oath.
The deep motive for fulfilling such an oath is also a kind of love, such as, for example love of knowledge, virtue or any other human good or quality advanced by faithful discipline. For truly admirable professionals, that is still true, even in our perverse times. It’s a pity people like Matt Drudge can’t respect such consummate professionals for what they are. Perhaps some of them are still willing to learn, however. So, Mr. Drudge, here endeth the first lesson. In December, I pray that voters in Alabama will teach you and your similarly arrogant, disdainful elitist buddies the next one.