Thursday, September 15, 2011

What do people mean by "it's just politics"?

I've always found it puzzling that people use the disparaging phrase "it's politics" or "it's just politics" so freely. I do understand what they usually mean: people acting to gain advantage (money, position, power) while pretending their actions are motivated by some less selfish principle. This sort of hypocrisy is dispiriting at best. More often it's wretched.

I think that politics is optimally about attempting to effect something one believes is in the interest of people as individuals or a community.

When the beneficiaries of the thing being effected are a large and broad group, and effecting it doesn't involve that group's gain to the unjust disadvantage of another ... well, in those cases "it's politics" is merely a description of how we go about organizing ourselves as a society.

Is organizing ourselves as a society (as opposed to organizing ourselves solely as individuals, families, or tribes) a bad thing?

I don't think so. Neither did "the founders," as the authors of the U.S. Constitution are fondly called by modern politicians who have serious reservations about organizing ourselves as a society.

E.J. Dionne had a sharp piece in Insight Magazine in this past Sunday's SF Chronicle, Modern political landscape fundamentally changed. In it, he describes "a Republican Party that [has been] taken over by a new sensibility linking radical individualism with a loathing for government." Check it out:

The president's speech to Congress and the Republican presidential debate last week should have taught us that we are no longer in the world of civics textbooks in which our political parties split their differences and arrive at imperfect but reasonably satisfactory solutions. Now we face a fundamental divide over the most basic questions: Is government good or bad? Can public action make the private economy work better, or are all efforts to alter the market's course -- by Congress, the president, the Federal Reserve -- doomed to failure?

I haven't been blogging much about politics lately, Monday's vitriolic post being an exception. I guess I've been dispirited. About two weeks ago, in Republican Candidates Turn Attacks on One Another by Jeff Zeleny of the NY Times, we have this:

Gov. Rick Perry is privately being coached to come across as more presidential -- cautious in his comments, deliberate in defending his Texas record -- while building on his fast start in the race for the nomination by trying to consolidate support across the Republican spectrum, from the Tea Party and evangelicals to the party establishment.

Note that this is not what's actually happening in the campaign of Governor Ponzi Scheme. Interestingly, this article first crossed my radar in the SF Chronicle, retitled GOP presidential hopefuls polish strategy. In any case, if that pullout doesn't exemplify "it's politics" in spades -- "privately being coached to come across as more presidential" -- I'm not sure anything does.

It's enough to jade a political junkie.

Check out former U.S. Labor Secretary and current UC Berkeley professor Robert Reich debunking lies at the Summit for a Fair Economy in Minneapolis last Saturday. In his takedown of Lie #2, "shrink government to create jobs" (from 1'00" to 2'16") Reich takes the air out of the canard that 'government always gets in the way.' The whole video is worth its eight and a half minutes: a salutory dose of reality in an unreal time. Thanks to UpTakeVideo for posting it to YouTube.

Related posts on One Finger Typing:
If a lie sells, shout it loud 
G.O.P proposes a death panel plan for health care
Tea Party Infusofascism?
Debased discourse
Sarah Palin, you're no William Shakespeare
Counterfactual thinking


  1. Politics is a necessary thing for a complex society because of the competing interests in the society. People now like to "talk down" politics, I suppose, it is easy to vent their frustration or anger without thinking through what the problems are and what can be done to solve the problems and whom to talk to band together and whom to try to convince and whom to fight against.

    This off-hand dismissive of politics and politicians, propelled spiritual healer Obama to his presidency, because he was not your usual career politician. For Republicans, they push forward "business leaders" which is just as wrong.

    For me, I would rather take a sincere career politician over any other kind people to deal with complex societal issues, which do need suave politicians to work together.

  2. @Matthew: thanks. Nice post on the Romney-as-McCain debacle...