Speaker of the House Paul Ryan gave his farewell address today. Whether you love him or hate him, he made some great remarks.
The state of politics these days, though, is another question, and frankly one I don’t have an answer for. We have a good sense of what our politics should look like. A great clash of ideas. A civil, passionate discourse through which we debate and resolve our differences….But today, too often, genuine disagreement quickly gives way to intense distrust. We spend far more time trying to convict one another than we do developing our own convictions. Being against someone has more currency than being for anything. Each of us has found ourselves operating on the wrong side of this equation from time to time….We default to lazy litmus tests and shopworn denunciations. It is just emotional pabulum fed from a trough of outrage. It is exhausting. It saps meaning from our politics. And it discourages good people from pursuing public service.
Ryan isn’t sure how we get back to restoring the lack of a social fabric, but believes people can overcome differences in politics and come together outside of the political realm.
So…how do we get back to aspiration and inclusion, where we start with humility, and seek to build on that? I don’t know the answer to that. What I offer today instead is something to keep in mind as we all try to navigate through this moment. Our culture is meant to be shaped not by our political institutions, but by the mediating institutions of civil society, of the community. These are the places where we come together with people of different backgrounds—churches, charities, teams, PTA meetings. It is where we build up our social capital, that currency which keeps us rooted to where we live, and how we live with one another. Rediscovering that human connection is one lane on the road back to aspiration and inclusion as the guiding influences in public life.
You can watch the rest of his farewell address below.