In defense of politics

“Politics” has become a dirty word.  As in: “It’s just politics.”  “They are just playing politics.”  “He’s just another politician.”  This is understandable, but also dangerous.  So says Alec MacGillis, an editor at the New Republic,  who examines a number of recent decisions derided as “political” by liberals and conservatives, showing that it was a good thing that lawmakers had to take the political process–that is to say, voters–into account.  Some of his comments:

It’s not surprising that “political” is an insult. Congress is gridlocked, with a 10 percent approval rating, and the 2012 campaign ads are doing their best to turn voters off.

But there is something troubling about the extent to which our leaders have made politics their bogeyman. Most important issues, from reproductive health to clean-energy investment, are riddled with politics — as they should be. They involve serious questions about what the country values and where it wants to invest its resources. To suggest that one’s own side is free of politics is not only sanctimonious, it’s also destructive. Demonizing politics leads Americans to disengage further from the sphere where big decisions are made, ceding the political realm to the very people who denigrate it at every opportunity.

Politics in its highest form has noble roots, going back to the Greeks — it is the art of government, of ordering life among a people. . . . .

Whatever one thinks about the wisdom of that decision, it was rightfully a political one. Who would we rather have making these decisions — our elected representatives, acting with the input of experts such as FDA scientists but also with an ear to their constituents, or the experts alone? The experts often have their own biases, such as industry ties. Elected officials are at least somewhat accountable to all of us. . . .

Our tendency to view the “political” as something separate from, rather than intrinsic to, the public sphere has side effects. For one thing, it contributes to the laughable distinction in our campaign finance laws between political action committees, which must disclose their donors, and affiliated nonprofit groups, which do not have to, as long as their attacks on candidates revolve around “issues,” not elections. But of course, the nonprofits’ issue ads are no less “political” than the PACs’ explicitly campaign-oriented ones.

But the biggest cost of our indiscriminate disparagement of all things “political” is its potential to further alienate Americans from a process they already have all too much reason to abandon. My time on the campaign trail this season has reminded me that there are few things more disheartening than meeting some of the countless people who have given up on politics — more often than not, people who have a major stake in the outcome. They spit the words out — “It’s all just politics” — with a disgusted wave, as if there were no connections between what they see happening in Washington and their lives, when there are in fact so many. And who can blame them, when they hear the word spoken with the same disgust by the practitioners in the field?

via From Solyndra to birth control, everything’s political. And that’s okay. – The Washington Post.

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • MarkB

    “They spit the words out — “It’s all just politics” — with a disgusted wave, as if there were no connections between what they see happening in Washington and their lives, when there are in fact so many. And who can blame them, when they hear the word spoken with the same disgust by the practitioners in the field?”

    I don’t think it is so much a disgust because of a belief that they are disconnected from what happens in Washington, but disgust because of the feeling that they have no impact on the things that go on in Washington. Many feel they have no voice in the process because of the way that the process seems to work, that money moves the vote and most of us do not have the amount of money to even be acknowledged much less have an impact on the legislation that is proposed and voted on.

  • MarkB

    “They spit the words out — “It’s all just politics” — with a disgusted wave, as if there were no connections between what they see happening in Washington and their lives, when there are in fact so many. And who can blame them, when they hear the word spoken with the same disgust by the practitioners in the field?”

    I don’t think it is so much a disgust because of a belief that they are disconnected from what happens in Washington, but disgust because of the feeling that they have no impact on the things that go on in Washington. Many feel they have no voice in the process because of the way that the process seems to work, that money moves the vote and most of us do not have the amount of money to even be acknowledged much less have an impact on the legislation that is proposed and voted on.

  • Carl Vehse

    “Politics” has become a dirty word.

    And one reason is the police state kakistocracy that is endemic in Washington DC, not only with Traitorbama, but also with Congress. As a prime example, last month the House and Senate passed, and on March 8, 2012, Barry Soetero signed, the FEDERAL RESTRICTED BUILDINGS AND GROUNDS IMPROVEMENT ACT OF 2011, now Public Law No: 112-98.

    Here’s the House roll call vote. Only three representatives, two Republicans and one Democrat, voted against the bill. The Senate passed the bill with unanimous consent.

    The law claims as its justification that there was no federal law for trespassing on the White House grounds or the the Vice President’s residence, even though there is a DC ordinance against it.

    Public Law No: 112-98 now makes it a federal crime to enter or remain in any posted or otherwise restricted area of ANY building (whether one knows it’s restricted or not) where the President or other person protected by the Secret Service is temporarily visiting. But in addition to making such trespassing a federal crime, the new law goes on to sodomize the Constitution.

    Public Law No: 112-98 also makes it a federal crime “to engage in disorderly or disruptive conduct in, or within such proximity to, any building or grounds described in paragraph (1) or (2) when, or so that, such conduct, in fact, impedes or disrupts the orderly conduct of Government business or official functions.”

    So even if there was no willful intent to impede or disrupt, if the SS Gestapo or any political apparatchik decides to declare any conduct (e.g., proclaiming that abortion is murder) as disruptive, then the proclaimer(s) can be arrested on federal charges.

    Furthermore, anyone or any organization involved in planning such conduct, even if disruption was not planned or wanted, can also be arrested on conspiracy charges.

    More information is in the article, “President Signs Law Placing Prior Restraint on Free Speech.”

    In the science fiction movie, Star Wars, Obi-Wan Kenobi described the Mos Eisley spaceport to young Luke Skywalker: “You will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy.” We now know that in this galaxy, with its current Administration and Congress, Washington, D.C. far exceeds Mos Eisley as a wretched hive of scum and villainy.

  • Carl Vehse

    “Politics” has become a dirty word.

    And one reason is the police state kakistocracy that is endemic in Washington DC, not only with Traitorbama, but also with Congress. As a prime example, last month the House and Senate passed, and on March 8, 2012, Barry Soetero signed, the FEDERAL RESTRICTED BUILDINGS AND GROUNDS IMPROVEMENT ACT OF 2011, now Public Law No: 112-98.

    Here’s the House roll call vote. Only three representatives, two Republicans and one Democrat, voted against the bill. The Senate passed the bill with unanimous consent.

    The law claims as its justification that there was no federal law for trespassing on the White House grounds or the the Vice President’s residence, even though there is a DC ordinance against it.

    Public Law No: 112-98 now makes it a federal crime to enter or remain in any posted or otherwise restricted area of ANY building (whether one knows it’s restricted or not) where the President or other person protected by the Secret Service is temporarily visiting. But in addition to making such trespassing a federal crime, the new law goes on to sodomize the Constitution.

    Public Law No: 112-98 also makes it a federal crime “to engage in disorderly or disruptive conduct in, or within such proximity to, any building or grounds described in paragraph (1) or (2) when, or so that, such conduct, in fact, impedes or disrupts the orderly conduct of Government business or official functions.”

    So even if there was no willful intent to impede or disrupt, if the SS Gestapo or any political apparatchik decides to declare any conduct (e.g., proclaiming that abortion is murder) as disruptive, then the proclaimer(s) can be arrested on federal charges.

    Furthermore, anyone or any organization involved in planning such conduct, even if disruption was not planned or wanted, can also be arrested on conspiracy charges.

    More information is in the article, “President Signs Law Placing Prior Restraint on Free Speech.”

    In the science fiction movie, Star Wars, Obi-Wan Kenobi described the Mos Eisley spaceport to young Luke Skywalker: “You will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy.” We now know that in this galaxy, with its current Administration and Congress, Washington, D.C. far exceeds Mos Eisley as a wretched hive of scum and villainy.

  • –helen

    The Congressman (generic) who “wins the lottery” (gets in office) then sells himself to the highest bidders among the lobbyists. All he has to do is survive to be set up for life with a fat pension & better health insurance than we will ever have.
    Meanwhile, they don’t even read the legislation the lobbyists are writing for them to sign!

    This helps the little guys back home, how?
    Sorry to be so cynical! Or is it realistic?

  • –helen

    The Congressman (generic) who “wins the lottery” (gets in office) then sells himself to the highest bidders among the lobbyists. All he has to do is survive to be set up for life with a fat pension & better health insurance than we will ever have.
    Meanwhile, they don’t even read the legislation the lobbyists are writing for them to sign!

    This helps the little guys back home, how?
    Sorry to be so cynical! Or is it realistic?

  • DonS

    Wow! Talk about missing the forest for the trees! It’s great that someone from the left side of the aisle is finally acknowledging that tough issues should be determined through the political process, as stated in this passage:

    Whatever one thinks about the wisdom of that decision, it was rightfully a political one. Who would we rather have making these decisions — our elected representatives, acting with the input of experts such as FDA scientists but also with an ear to their constituents, or the experts alone? The experts often have their own biases, such as industry ties. Elected officials are at least somewhat accountable to all of us. . . .

    But nowhere in the article does Mr. MacGillis seem to have any recognition of the fact that the left repeatedly eschews the political process when it does not immediately get its way politically, running to the courts to enact controversial policies, such as abortion on demand, gay marriage, and a host of others. We would, as a society, be a lot less on edge politically if he and his ilk practiced what he is preaching here.

    Here’s another interesting passage:

    What I find most confounding are the attempts by Republican groups to slam the administration’s ill-fated investment in the solar energy company Solyndra as “infused with politics at every level” — in the words of a TV ad paid for by Crossroads GPS, a group co-founded by Karl Rove. That quote comes from a Dec. 25 article in The Washington Post that described how administration officials weighed the political ramifications of the investment at every turn. But why should that be so shocking? A government-backed venture-capital initiative is inherently political. The administration has deemed the clean-energy industry enough of a priority that it is supporting it with taxpayer money, and it dearly hopes that the investment will pan out to justify that choice.

    Um, how about an acknowledgement that the very fact that a government-backed venture capital initiative is inherently political makes such an enterprise a terrible idea — prone to corruption? As has been demonstrated again, and again, and again, and again…..

  • DonS

    Wow! Talk about missing the forest for the trees! It’s great that someone from the left side of the aisle is finally acknowledging that tough issues should be determined through the political process, as stated in this passage:

    Whatever one thinks about the wisdom of that decision, it was rightfully a political one. Who would we rather have making these decisions — our elected representatives, acting with the input of experts such as FDA scientists but also with an ear to their constituents, or the experts alone? The experts often have their own biases, such as industry ties. Elected officials are at least somewhat accountable to all of us. . . .

    But nowhere in the article does Mr. MacGillis seem to have any recognition of the fact that the left repeatedly eschews the political process when it does not immediately get its way politically, running to the courts to enact controversial policies, such as abortion on demand, gay marriage, and a host of others. We would, as a society, be a lot less on edge politically if he and his ilk practiced what he is preaching here.

    Here’s another interesting passage:

    What I find most confounding are the attempts by Republican groups to slam the administration’s ill-fated investment in the solar energy company Solyndra as “infused with politics at every level” — in the words of a TV ad paid for by Crossroads GPS, a group co-founded by Karl Rove. That quote comes from a Dec. 25 article in The Washington Post that described how administration officials weighed the political ramifications of the investment at every turn. But why should that be so shocking? A government-backed venture-capital initiative is inherently political. The administration has deemed the clean-energy industry enough of a priority that it is supporting it with taxpayer money, and it dearly hopes that the investment will pan out to justify that choice.

    Um, how about an acknowledgement that the very fact that a government-backed venture capital initiative is inherently political makes such an enterprise a terrible idea — prone to corruption? As has been demonstrated again, and again, and again, and again…..

  • http://michaeljdonahue.blogspot.com Michael J Donahue

    I think one of the reasons the whole political process is so frustrating to Christians is that we have a sense for how the world should be run. God has given us morals and law and we as humans are accountable for our stewardship in these areas; however, the church has to ask what role it is supposed to play. God already tested His representative people Israel with trying to run a government under God and they failed. The Lord has made no promises to America like He did to Israel. When Christ came to set up His church, He made it intentionally non-political. Christ said “I will build my church” (Matt. 16:18), He did not say “I will use the church to set up my government.” The time for His government to be set up is coming when He returns, but it is not here yet.

    So what is the church to do? I would suggest do what Christ called us to (Matt. 28:19-20), and leave the political stuff to the world. Christ warned that the political world would head downhill until He returned (Luke 21, Matt. 24), I don’t understand why we Christians act so surprised that we live in a corrupt world that “lies under the sway of the wicked one” (1 John 5:19).

  • http://michaeljdonahue.blogspot.com Michael J Donahue

    I think one of the reasons the whole political process is so frustrating to Christians is that we have a sense for how the world should be run. God has given us morals and law and we as humans are accountable for our stewardship in these areas; however, the church has to ask what role it is supposed to play. God already tested His representative people Israel with trying to run a government under God and they failed. The Lord has made no promises to America like He did to Israel. When Christ came to set up His church, He made it intentionally non-political. Christ said “I will build my church” (Matt. 16:18), He did not say “I will use the church to set up my government.” The time for His government to be set up is coming when He returns, but it is not here yet.

    So what is the church to do? I would suggest do what Christ called us to (Matt. 28:19-20), and leave the political stuff to the world. Christ warned that the political world would head downhill until He returned (Luke 21, Matt. 24), I don’t understand why we Christians act so surprised that we live in a corrupt world that “lies under the sway of the wicked one” (1 John 5:19).

  • Carl Vehse

    Another indication of how Demonicrats have perverted politics is this desecrated flag, flown at the Lake County Demonicrat headquarters in Florida. Chairman Nancy Hurlburt finally took the flag down after a veterans group pointed out that she and her ilk were in violation of federal law.

  • Carl Vehse

    Another indication of how Demonicrats have perverted politics is this desecrated flag, flown at the Lake County Demonicrat headquarters in Florida. Chairman Nancy Hurlburt finally took the flag down after a veterans group pointed out that she and her ilk were in violation of federal law.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Carl (@6), do you want to be taken seriously? Or do you enjoy being this blog’s crazy old uncle? Just curious.

    Also, that’s not an American flag, so it hasn’t been desecrated.

    But at least your post was completely irrelevant to the topic at hand.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Carl (@6), do you want to be taken seriously? Or do you enjoy being this blog’s crazy old uncle? Just curious.

    Also, that’s not an American flag, so it hasn’t been desecrated.

    But at least your post was completely irrelevant to the topic at hand.

  • Carl Vehse

    Were you trying to say something, tODD @7?

  • Carl Vehse

    Were you trying to say something, tODD @7?


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