The US Presidential Debate is dominating headlines. It’s hard to resist taking an interest or having an opinion, despite a very British distaste for personality politics. I found myself willing Hilary Clinton to step out onto the debate stage, with all the world assuming she would lambast Trump’s newly exposed flaws, only to take the high-road and talk about real politics. But then I couldn’t think of what she would say. And if she did go back to ‘real politics’, would she win more votes?
Because if we’re honest, we’re all fascinated by people. Whether that’s celebrities in Hello, models in Vogue or politicians in The Telegraph. Highbrow and lowbrow, upper and working class, we all have our heroes and villains, we all have strangers we like to gossip about and disagree with as if we were on the debating stage opposite them.
It is people we vote for, people we want to trust with our country. You cannot touch a policy, you cannot speak to democracy, you cannot empathise with ideology.
We should be concerned by this on two accounts. Firstly, does an obsession with people in print or on screen make us forget about the flesh and blood around us? While Trump and Clinton dominate headlines, who do they push out? The media has finite print space and we have finite attention spans. There are deserving causes a plenty and we need to be wise about where our time and attention goes. It should not always be given to those who shout the loudest, make the most disturbing remarks or have the most money and power. Perhaps the deserving cause is sitting in the room with you while you watch the Presidential debate. Sometimes, we need to worry less about the people who will have influence over us and more about the people we can influence.
Secondly, we should concerned about the relationship between Trump and Clinton. How do they behave to real people? Because as they try to project a person that you can shape your politics around, they are attempting to destroy their opponent. The one real relationship in the room – because, no matter how hard you scream at the TV, yours is not a real relationship with the future US president – is being trashed without a second thought.
The challenge for all of us – me, you, Trump and Clinton – is to live in the real. If we need a person to run our country, we will have to accept them as a whole and real person – warts and all. If they started by valuing the person in front of them more than the people in newspapers, they might do a better job of running the country. And if we did the same, we would do a better job of being its citizens.