Laura Wharton
Jerusalem City Councilor, adjunct lecturer in political science

Taking politicians — and politics — seriously

Sadly, it has become a truism that no one believes politicians anymore. Perhaps that is in part why nobody paid attention to Trump’s repeated declarations that he would accept no election results except his own victory.

A month after the election, more than a third of the voting population did not accept the results and only 25% of Republicans did, according to a poll by NPR. According to a poll published earlier this week by Reuters, still only 80% believed Biden had won. That is, most people don’t trust politicians, but Trump supporters trusted Trump. What one may learn is that although many politicians have earned public distrust, we should all be listening more carefully to what is being said, however much we may disagree. The horrifying attack on the capitol by supporters of still-president Trump marks a new nadir in American politics but should not be entirely surprising: Trump kept his promise not to recognize his loss and his most devoted supporters took the cue, as they’d publicly promised him.

Apparently, largely due to Trump’s failure in dealing with Corona, Joseph Biden managed to win the presidential elections, but with a thin margin of 51% of the vote. In the tremendously important double victory in Georigia, both historic and boding well for Biden’s ability to function in his upcoming term, each of the senators won by less than 1 %.

The newly-elected president, vice-president and members of Congress have huge challenges in front of them. Not only is the pandemic still raging and the statistics worsening, the American economy will take years to recover and in the meantime millions of Americans will be unemployed and increasingly impoverished. In addition, the American political system, including the Republican party and popular confidence in the electoral system, as well as the judicial system and the media. must be restored. Without faith in the system, only the die-hards who are not necessarily the best-informed, will have the upper hand.

But there is perhaps a bright side to the tumultuous years of Trump. For a long time it seemed as if politics were being taken for granted. Many of the most talented and promising potential leaders preferred safer and more secure professions, and during a long post-war period of American stability and hegemony, politic choices seemed easy. Collect taxes, pay out what one must, send in the troops if necessary.

Today serious and concentrated efforts must be put into looking forward and planning carefully. That requires taking politicians — and politics — seriously.


About the Author
Dr Laura Wharton is a member of Jerusalem's City Council as a representative of Meretz and an adjunct lecturer in the political science department at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Born in the U.S., she immigrated to Israel after receiving a B.A. in the government department of Harvard University and then served a full term in the Israel Defense Forces. She subsequently completed an M.A. and a Ph.D. at Hebrew University. For research that later served as the basis for her book "Is the Party Over? How Israel Lost Its Social Agenda" (Yad Levi Eshkol, 2019) she was awarded the Prime Minister's Prize in Memory of Levi Eshkol. She is a mother of two and has been living in Jerusalem for more than two decades.
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