Charles Krauthammer was an intellectual titan, unmatched in the analysis of American life. For several days now, we’ve watched and read countless pieces encapsulating the greatness that still is Mr. Krauthammer. Fellow columnists, pundits and news anchors have all given resounding praise and sincere appreciation for his decades’ worth of contributions to news and politics.
From normally rabid liberal blowhards to pot-stirring conservative firebrands, nearly everyone seems compelled to use their platform to say something nice about Krauthammer. Such respect and admiration, as true or well-deserved as it may be, does not come easily, especially in a town as vicious as Washington.
But what about the rest of us?
Aside from digital noise of social media, how should the rest of us honor such a rare and extraordinary man? Have the so-called “influencers,” comprised of media and political elites, forgotten the impact of Krauthammer’s wisdom on the rest of us? Do they fully fathom why we looked forward to his television panels or eagerly awaited his Friday column (not because it was in The Washington Post, rather it was syndicated in our hometown papers)?
For as institutionalized as the brilliant thinker and communicator Krauthammer was, everyday Americans felt easier knowing a sane, even-keeled, straight-shooter like him would set the toughest conversations straight. When the people stepped away from the shenanigans in Washington, Krauthammer remained observant, above the fray and prepared to elevate the narrative.
He was the American people’s one true friend in politics and he seemed to take that responsibility seriously regularly deviating from conventional talking points and political maxims. He was fatherly in that sense, as he stewarded anchors, pundits, and viewers alike into the real cruxes of issues. He alleviated us from dreadful groupthink and echo chambers reminding us that larger things are at stake – things that mattered more than great sound bites in soon forgotten news cycles.
Krauthammer’s conduct was exemplary, statesmanlike, and all but extinct in many corners of public life – just look at yesterday’s ridiculous House Judiciary Committee hearing with Peter Strzok. A presence of Krauthammer’s magnitude would’ve surely raised the gaze of bloodthirsty partisans.
Instead of telling us how we should think or act, he showed us that well-cultivated intellect, the distillation of points and counterpoints coupled with good old fashion civility still won the day – maybe not always in Washington, but certainly with the rest of us.
More importantly, Krauthammer always brought us back to one important theme. He couched in many ways and sometimes it was almost unrecognizable. But it was simple enough: that politics mattered.
For the rest of us, he encouraged our participation in the political processes, though it often makes us nauseous and frustrated. On page two of his written compilations, Things That Matter, Krauthammer made it clear why politics was worth caring about.
“While science, medicine, art, poetry, architecture, chess, space, sports, number theory and all things hard and beautiful promise purity, elegance and sometimes even transcendence, they are fundamentally subordinate,” he wrote. “In the end, they must bow to the sovereignty of politics.”
That sentiment permeated throughout everything he communicated. Understanding the implications of his ability to connect the superficiality of Washington mudslinging to what would intrinsically matter years from now, is priceless – inspiring even.
Couple that with a large dose of humility and humor, which he most certainly had both, and it’s easy to see why Mr. Krauthammer was an American treasure – an archetype of the same brilliance of our Founders.
In his last column, Krauthammer said, “I am grateful to have played a small role in the conversations that have helped guide this extraordinary nation’s destiny.” What to know what humble looks like? That’s it.
Humility and civic participation through what he called, “…the pursuit of truth and right ideas through honest debate and rigorous argument…” are two elemental ideas, often lost on the elites, but resonate with the rest of us. And it’s those ideas, far more than the man himself, that inspire us to also seek the fresher air above the fray.
I think Krauthammer would’ve wanted it that way – to focus less on the loss of his flesh and more on the task at hand, to, as he said, realize that, “…maintaining strong and sturdy the structures of a constitutional order is unending, the continuing and ceaseless work of every generation.”
Until the next great thinker emerges from the pressures of modernity, the rest of us will have to take up Krauthammer’s call: to stick with things that matter.