Thursday, February 7, 2008

Why politics matters
Everyone I work with knows I love politics. I love reading 800 page books on Chairman Mao, or the foreign policy of Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger. There are only a handful of things that I enjoy more. I long ago learned that it is not worth talking politics as a general rule. You have to find people who also love and follow it. They don’t have to agree with you, just be able to have a discussion without becoming red faced. This year politics is especially in the air. We are in the midst of a truly historic election. You would have to go back all the way to 1952 for the last time there was an election without an incumbent President or Vice President running. The result has been a fiery debate among an open field on both sides of the aisle. Throw in a juggled and front loaded primary system and you have a down right throw down. But I’m not done, we also have a woman and an African American competing, actually competing, for the top spot. Now consider that it looks increasingly like the next President will be from the Senate, a feat that only a handful of people have accomplished, and fewer have accomplished in recent history. The last Senator to springboard to the presidency was Kennedy in 1960 and before that you have to go back to 1880 with James Garfield. However, many Senators have launched plenty of losing campaigns from the Senate. Take all this into account, and you can’t help feel that this is truly a historic and exciting election; and it’s just the primaries. I notice more and more people are talking politics and I think it’s good. However, for all you newcomers out there I will give you some advice. Enjoy it! Most primaries are dull. Front-runners get established early and conventions are just giant parties that go through the motions at the cost of millions of dollars. This year we may actually witness a convention that actually decides a candidate rather than anoints one. It will be one heck of a ride. Maybe things can change. It does seem to me that the road seems a little less dirty than normal. I guess attack ads and slander just ain’t what they used to be. Maybe people will start demanding a little more of their politicians, and from themselves. I have to admit that I feel good no matter what candidate gets selected. This may be one of the rare times when the pendulum swings the other way, when the people become the beneficiaries of government. I hope so! Politics is important, and with all the new voters this year, I hope everyone realizes why they need to be involved. The leaders we elect affect our lives on every level. They make decisions that determine whether you can have an abortion, decisions that affect your ability to get student loans, educate your children, how much money you get to keep in your paycheck, or whether you get sent to war. They can influence and make decisions that matter in all kinds of ways that are too many to list. Not only that, they have the power of appointment. They choose judges (many for lifetime appointments) and administration officials who control the food we eat, the air we breathe, the cars we drive and the quality and availability of our health care, just to mention a few of the ways they effect our lives. To often, politicians and the like rely on the fact that half of the electorate is not paying attention to what they do and what they pass. They represent their own ambitions and rarely have our best interests at heart. That being said, not all politicians are crooks. I believe there are those who feel a sense of public service in what they do. The system makes it so hard for people like that to thrive. All the more reason to pay attention! The only real power we have is to throw the bums out when our interests are not served. They know it too. Believe me, they pay attention to the demographics that vote. Some call that pandering; I think it is the system working. History is full of people who ruled without accountability and the list of abuses is long. Politics can often be frustrating and maddening but Americans are lucky to have the system we have and we should appreciate it. We can throw them out, and often do! So go vote, but more importantly pay attention, dig a little deeper. Demand more than a sound bite or slogan. Know what the issues are for yourself; don’t let them tell you what they are. Maybe you can find just a hint of the passion that I have. We would all benefit from it!