Turning on the news every day, you can’t help but hear the same few phrases tossed around. And there’s one that easily dominates the rest; “Washington insider,” be it someone claiming they’re anything but or another claiming someone else is. The way it’s told, it’s almost enough to make you think that anyone living within a ten mile radius of the District of Columbia should be accused of treason or shot on sight. Which begs an important question for the 99.9% of Americans not classified as “insiders”… who can we trust if not the very people we elect? On the one side, we have reputable men and women struggling to assure us that their experience is a positive good, giving them insight and know-how to understand modern crises and resolve them as they emerge. On the other, the public faces a growing chorus of individuals trying to persuade us that our nation should be left in the hands of those with no such test of ability. And between those two choices lie three-hundred million citizens desperate for an answer.
So the fundamental issue of our time is not Right or Left, Good or Evil, or even Victory or Defeat. Instead, it has become Experienced or Novice, Tried or Untried. In essence, all that matters is In or Out. Are we headed for a world in which the President of the United States must defer to the opinions of pundits and pollsters in order to make good with the public? I don’t believe anything so extreme is on the horizon—not yet, at any rate. That said, one cannot deny the unprecedented surge in favor of politician who know little to nothing about the political process or its complexities. By now, you must think I’m preparing to tell you how idiotic such an idea is, how it would undermine the system and unravel the delicate thread that is the American government.
Nothing of the sort.
While I would still advocate for experience from a Commander in Chief, it’s no great secret that the great political landscape has become stale. Conservatives have split into a thousand competing factions, liberals no longer seem capable of enacting the change that drives them, and moderates appear too concerned with varying takes on red and blue to advance any meaningful work on their own. Stagnation is the deathbed of empires, and complacency its servant. Each generation brings new ideas, worldviews, and dreams to the forefront, but they are too often brushed aside as naive or too radical for the times, only to reemerge at the twilight of their usefulness years later on. Not every thinker can take the Presidency, but change—real, world-changing change—does not have to begin in the Oval Office. Every citizen has something to bring to the table, live they in Washington, D.C. or on the very fringes of the American society, and their contributions are needed now more than ever.
I said that the great question of our age has become In or Out, and I believe there is an answer. It’s neither option; as with many things, our future is not defined by black or white but by shades of gray. We require those with the knowledge of the Ins but the spirit of the Outs. As someone studying political science, as someone getting a better grasp of the Inside while looking Out, I can only remind the world that history shows the invaluable benefit of an experienced hand. But as an ordinary citizen, as someone with no political contacts or behind-the-scenes know-how, I also remember that every great leader or “Washington Insider” began where I and 99.9% of the nation are now.
Sitting on the Outside looking In.