Late night ruminations: Politics as usual?


Public policy is difficult.

This cannot rationally be denied — anything worth doing in the legislative processis going to be controversial to someone, and if it’s controversial getting it done will require compromise or gamesmanship or a plain old knock-down drag-out fight. It’s the sausage-making aspect of American democracy, and sometimes it just ain’t pretty.

But it strikes me that politics — the process by which individuals get themselves elected to be the sausage-makers — really should be a lot easier than we in the political class sometimes make it out to be. Politics should be about clearly defining the values we all share: family, community, opportunity. It should be about getting to know one another as human beings, as fellow citizens, and as neighbors. Politics is best when it’s about electing someone you’re proud to send to represent you, and worst when lots of voters are holding their noses in the ballot box.

And yet, for politics to really be that good, a certain responsibility is required of the voters to be as interested in the issues and the candidates as the candidates and the issue groups are in the voters. It’s a crass political operator who seeks to shrink the voter-universe-shaped pie of the other guy while ignoring the effect it has on her own potential voters. And yet, to the victor go the spoils, regardless of whether that victor ran an honorable, clean, honest race. It’s up to the voters to see through all the junk to get at the real issues, seemingly an impossible task in today’s 24-7 world of crisis both abroad and at home.

Politics could be — should be — so easy: work hard, get your name and face in people’s hearts and minds, be honest about how your values match those of the voters whose support you seek, and stick up for those values when your opponent says they’re wrong.

How did we get to this place we now call “politics as usual?” It seems so difficult for something that should be so easy.