The Ego factor

The Ego factor doesn’t get talked about much during political campaigns except when one candidate accuses another of being on an ego trip – – a sly but meaningless comment designed to call into question a candidate’s sincerity and credentials, leaving voters to ponder the real impact of ego-driven politics.

A keenly-developed ego is an important factor for anyone seeking political office or indeed any other important place in the social construct. Merriam/Webster’s on-line dictionary defines ego as “the self especially as contrasted with another self or the world” and goes on to explain it as “one of the … three divisions of the psyche in psychoanalytic theory that serves as the organized conscious mediator between the person and reality especially by functioning both in the perception of and adaptation to reality.”

Without a strong sense of self success in any endeavor is uncertain, but at times ego overwhelms good judgment and decisions emanate from an overblown, irrational self-image – –  “an exaggerated sense of self importance.” This flaw is manifest on two sides of the political spectrum – – on one side is Ralph Nader announcing his candidacy for president once again; on the other is our president, a man, as some describe him, who was born on third base but thinks his current status is the result of having hit a home run. Nader all but disappears for long stretches of time only to reappear every four years like some avenging angel. Bush, on the other hand, just keeps up the charade that he’s a national hero – – both men fail the test of ‘adapting to reality.’

Into the confusing maelstrom that defines the current political atmosphere in Washington it is often difficult to separate the rants of extreme partisanship and ego gratification from straightforward discussions of issues and policies. Even more distressing are the self-important pundits who insist on trying to direct policy from their perches on right wing media outlets – – self-aggrandizing personalities whose egos take precedence over even a pretense of sound journalism yet who pretend otherwise.

In addition to deliberate media malfeasance there’s the daily pap dished up by such as MSNBC’s intellectually-challenged “Tucker” who claimed outrageous remarks by Ohio’s talk-show host Bill Cunningham at a McCain campaign stop were “just politics”. Beyond Cunningham’s repetition of Barack Obama’s middle name, Hussein, other insulting and irrelevant references went far beyond any reasonable definition of “just politics” unless one interprets them as politics as usual, something most Americans are rejecting. Cunningham’s subsequent explanation that, gee, don’t people always speak of Franklin Delano Roosevelt fails to convince any rational observer of innocent intent. Most people got Mr. Cunningham’s inferences and understood that organizers were using him to fire up the crowd with a little “red meat” before McCain arrived.

To his credit McCain, disavowed Cunningham’s remarks saying he wanted to run a respectful campaign and wasn’t prepared to disparage fellow senators, honorable colleagues, with whom he would continue to work. But then the most amazing thing happened; he was roundly condemned by angry talk-show hosts from Hannity to Limbaugh and of course Cunningham. While it wasn’t all that surprising that right-wing fringers like Ann Coulter, Bill Cunningham and Rush Limbaugh would castigate McCain for taking the high road, the fact that they threaten to vote for Democrats or stay home rather than support McCain is a sign that they are more concerned with their own ego-gratification than either the bedrock principles of their party or the good of the country.

Republicans need to decide whether they want to allow the radical right to define them or if they prefer to be seen in a different light. Surely there must be some horrified members of The Grand Old Party out there – – some real values voters – -who deplore the politics of innuendo and deceit and are willing to “denounce and reject” those who claim to speak for them in such defamatory ways.

Maybe this time around the parties will refrain from hate speech and stick to issues, and ego-driven, right-wing pundits and others will discover their influence has waned and the choirs to whom they preach will begin to think for themselves. We can always hope.