This clip — of a distraught young man hugging John Kasich — is being passed around the internet as a heartwarming moment during an otherwise-brutal campaign. The kid apparently lost a close friend and mentor to suicide, his parents got divorced, and his father lost his job — three things that understandably put him in a “dark place for a long time.” He says he found hope in his faith, his friends, and in Kasich. He then asks for “one of those hugs” that Kasich’s been talking about. Watch:
Kasich responds by talking about the “pain of people all around this country” and then says “we don’t have enough people that sit down and cry with that young man.”
At the risk of betraying my own dark heart, I didn’t see anything inspiring about that embrace. Instead, I saw a troubled student who was placing far too much stock in the personality of a politician, a candidate who is feeding the notion that his campaign represents some kind of group counseling session, and a disturbing flip side to Trumpian politics of rage – a politics of all the feels.
This is not politics in its proper place. While presidents can occasionally inspire with their own brand of political courage, with their personal example, or with stirring rhetoric, if our politicians now have to help meet our emotional needs, then we’ve lost our way. Kasich is walking around the country acting like the family life minister of a particularly sappy seeker church. I don’t want my president telling me to sit down and cry with people.
Our citizens have the responsibility of not seeking spiritual meaning from politicians, and politicians have the responsibility to stay in their lane. A president is neither national parent nor national pastor, and the bully pulpit is not the place for hugs and tears. Politics is largely about leadership, and it’s time to lead our country away from the notion that a politician can serve as the balm to soothe the wounded soul.