Person behind the politics

By Matt Pasquini

It’s not very often you get a chance to see the human side of politicians. 

Their personas get clouded by media appearances and, eventually, the only part of their identity that hasn’t been stripped of them is their political leaning. Instead of looking at politicians as human beings, we look at them solely as political beings.

Stripping people of their identities as humans opens the doors to harsh scrutiny and fierce ridicule, which allows us to think and talk about our political leaders in ways we would never even think of talking about our families, friends, acquaintances and even strangers. Recent examples can comically be seen in a series of YouTube videos uploaded by NowThis News called Mean Tweets DC where politicians read mean tweets about themselves. 

During the summer of 2012, I spent my time interning on the campaign of my former state senator, Carole Pankau, R-23. All I was looking for was an opportunity to get my feet wet and get a sense of the world of politics.

With that being said, I was still nervous to work with Republicans, especially given my more liberal tendencies. I assumed I would spend my days listening to people bash on the candidates I was more likely to support and was worried I’d be marginalized due to my reluctance to share my personal political views.

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Well lo and behold, I had some pretty neat opportunities that allowed me to see the more personal side of the Senator and her staff. Some of these opportunities included working the call center, attending photo shoots for campaign brochures and going door-to-door with the Senator herself. I soon realized that my coworkers didn’t care as much about my political leanings as they did my commitment and willingness to do a good job.

Donna Rozycki was the Senator’s legislative aide at the time and getting to know her was one of the greatest honors I’ve ever had. 

She’s the one who made my time interning worthwhile. 

She made me laugh with her fiery and snappy personality, but her heart of gold balanced everything out. I attribute the conversations I had with her to being what really helped kick-start my pursuit for a career in politics. Rozycki was one of the first people who told me it doesn’t matter which party I affiliate with, so long as I’m committed to my cause and believe in it.

I also had the opportunity to meet one character that most people in the political realm are familiar with — former Republican congressman, Joe Walsh. 

When I was introduced to him, I was greeted with overwhelming excitement and enthusiasm. 

He asked me about my summer plans and school, and when I would answer his questions he would make me feel like I was the only one in the room.

His boisterous and passionate personality was far from the arrogant and fiery interviews we’ve seen go viral on YouTube, and at that moment, I realized that while, yes, he was one of the darlings of the Tea Party, he’s a human. For me to dislike him and speak ill of him solely due to his political beliefs runs harshly against the grain of the very thing I believe in — acceptance.

Most people tend to forget that one’s political identity is just one of their many social identities, along with gender, sexual orientation, nationality, race, socioeconomic class, etc.

Politics is just a dirty game. 

The mudslinging and low blows are an unfortunate byproduct of two passionate individuals fighting for power, and it seems like a bogus excuse, but until someone comes along and changes the game, that’s just how it is. All it takes is someone to take the initiative to stay above the fray and say, I don’t agree with them politically, but I respect them as a person.

It’s easy to let a little part of who someone is get in the way of the whole individual, especially in politics. But before anyone decides to go and make personal attacks on the character of a public figure, I highly urge them to think how they would feel if someone made those same attacks on them solely because of their political beliefs. We’re dealing with human beings here, and to assume that they take such harsh and blatant criticism with a grain of salt is silly. 

They have feelings, just like you and me.

Matt is a sophomore in LAS. He can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @MatthewPasquini.