Perspective in Art and Politics

In art perspective is important. It is used to draw the eye into a painting or to position an observer on just the line intended by the sculptor. Writers use characters’ differing views to show the reader all may not be as it seems. Art touches the deepest parts of our humanity when we can follow the journey the artist guides us on, when we understand from whence the story comes and where it might lead. When art fails, it is most often because there is a fracture between perspective and perception. It is for this reason I cannot appreciate a Picasso. I cannot understand where the great man is centered, and I am profoundly ignorant of where he intends to lead.

Perspective is important in politics too. It is becoming more so, because we are now faced with a chief executive who revels in chaos, who believes all press is good (though all in the press are bad), and is undaunted in an ability to deal in falsehoods. Without perspective, it is too easy to be caught up in an attack on a federal judge, the intentional omission of recognition of Jews on Holocaust Remembrance Day, or the confirmation of a Secretary of Education so lacking qualification or even understanding of the system she now directs that she received more “no” votes than all previous nominees to her position combined. Without perspective one could be driven mad by the audacity of the Senate Majority Leader to ignore his Constitutional vow and a nominee of the duly elected President of the United States. In politics, as in art, it is important to understand where a politician is coming from, because it tells you everything about where he intends to go.

It is in this view that we must assess the president’s pick to replace Justice Scalia on the Supreme Court. Democrats are rightly incensed at the treatment of Merrick Garland, President Obama’s nominee to fill that seat. The idea that Senate Republicans wanted to “give the people a voice” was disingenuous in the extreme. Fully 21% of the president’s term remained when Republicans denied the people their rightful say. The people had spoken. Twice. They chose the man who nominated Merrick Garland, and more of them chose Secretary Clinton than her opponent. Yet none of that addresses the issue now at hand.

Only a sense of perspective can save Democrats from a grave error with the potential to fundamentally alter the stature of one of the greatest deliberative bodies the world has ever known. The nomination of Neil Gorsuch is one that must be viewed in relation to other nominees this president might have chosen, not in relation to the choice the last one made. It is fantasy to consider what might have been without the necessary mechanism of the Electoral College. The despicable actions of the last Senate and its majority stand on their own demerits. What is left for Democrats now is to go about the work they are sworn to do and give Judge Gorsuch a thorough and fair vetting. What is left is for them to model for the nation how Senators ought to behave. In so doing they will demonstrate perspective and communicate a journey far more justly led. In so doing they will show us, like great art, one path to our better selves.

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