The Difference Between a Politician and a Statesman

There has been a lot of talk among GOP hopefuls about the dangers of “career politicians.” Ben Carson and Carly Fiorina are just the most recent to claim that they are more qualified or trustworthy because they are not politicians.

This may be similar to the proleptic Heinz ketchup ad campaign which attempted to put a positive spin on how frustrating it was to use Heinz ketchup. Wannabe politicians without political experience have to defuse that lack of experience somehow. This is one way. But some commentators are already crying foul:

Do you want the next president to be somebody who brags about not being a politician?

Think about that for a minute. “Politician” isn’t a popular term right now. But claiming that you’re not one when you run for president is a little like applying for a job as brain surgeon by announcing, “I am not a physician.”

Is that actually the case? Is there a difference between a politician and a statesman? I think so. What exactly is a politician? Someone with political experience? No. A politician, as defined connotatively, is a person who exercises his position merely for his own personal gain and is therefore susceptible to bribery and corruption. A statesman is someone who puts the interests of his country and his constituency above his own, operating according to fixed and immovable principles.

A person with political experience is not necessarily a politician. Conversely, someone who doesn’t have political experience is not immune from becoming a politician. In fact, utilizing the “I’m not a politician” tack is a rather political thing to do.

We don’t need more politicians in Washington. We need statesmen. But that requires political experience. There’s the rub. How could anyone with any morals actually keep his convictions after a few turns in Washington? It’s rare. But it’s not impossible. There have been statesmen like that before, and we need them badly now.

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