Why Politics Matters

Over more than a decade in politics, I’ve heard lots of derision of the political profession.  Elected officials, candidates, and political operatives of both parties make easy targets.  How often have you heard how bad politicians are, or had someone react with less then enthusiasm when you told them you were thinking about a career in politics?

Here at Local Victory, most of my articles center on how to get elected – the tactics and strategies that win elections.  Every so often though, I try to publish a pep-talk for you, our readers, to remind you that what you do is  important.  (For example, The Secrets of Being a Political Entrepreneur).  This is one of those articles.

Derision Abounds…

First, let’s get the lay of the land: there are politics-haters on all sides, of all political persuasions.  People don’t like Congress, or their state legislative bodies.  People are disgusted with politicians and politics.  They hate partisanship, they hate divisiveness, they hate the arguments, the fundraising and the advertisements.

Is any of this warranted?  Surely, some is.  Too many politicians care more about winning their next election than doing what is right.  Too many operatives will work for anyone who can pay them, no matter their relative merit.  Politics is sometimes nasty and brutish, and sometimes compromises are called for, but don’t happen.

…but Honesty Awaits

But let’s be honest: the vast majority of politicians who are in the game are in it for the right reason… to make a difference.  Most operatives are good people who want to see candidates they agree with philosophically get elected.  Most activists, be they Tea-Partiers on the right or Uber-Progressives on the left, are less interested in anarchy than in swaying government to do what they believe is right, even if others disagree with them.

Not every operative or politician or idea is good and wholesome.  But most disagreements are honest, and most people in politics believe in what they are doing, whether it is objectively wrong or right.

We Argue About it Because it Really Matters

The reason why there are such nasty arguments in politics — the reason why campaigns get ugly, why we spend so much money on political campaigns, why consultants and pollsters and mail shops get involved –is because politics matters.

The most important issues of our day – the ones that affect the daily lives of the people in your city, your state, your country – are decided in the political arena.  Education.  The Size of Government.  The Environment.  Business.  Health. Taxes.  Spending.  War.  Peace… most important decisions in each of these areas, and countless more, are decided in the political arena.

If the question is war vs. peace, big government vs. small government, private healthcare vs. public healthcare… shouldn’t we argue about these things?  Shouldn’t there be disagreements?  Shouldn’t we spend money (and lots of it) to advocate different positions?  Aren’t these issues important enough?  Isn’t this what a free people should do?

Be Proud of What You Do

What’s my point?  It’s this: be proud of what you do.  Politics — whether elected or non-elected, in the campaign or in the government, on the right or on the left – is a noble profession.  It matters because the issues matter.  The direction of your city, state, and country matter.  Our future matters.

Lots of money gets spent on campaigns – but more money gets spent on potato chips every year in the US (as a percentage of GDP) then on the political process.  Which is more important?

Hold your head up high, and love what you do.  Advocate for your candidates, speak up for your views.  Turn down that compromise if it isn’t in the best interests of your neighborhood, state, or country.  And the next time someone asks, “What do you do?” answer, in all honesty… “Something that matters.”

Don’t Let Anyone Fool You…

One final thought: an objection you’ll hear time and again when you proudly say, “I’m in politics.”  It’s a refrain you’ve heard before: sure… we can disagree on political issues, but they way we do it today is far uglier than it used to be.  Political argument used to be more civilized.  It’s wasn’t argument at all… it was civilized discourse and statesmanlike debate.

Hog-wash.  Politics has gotten more civilized, not less.  Take a look at the way campaigns used to be conducted in the United States:

  • In 1800, Thomas Jefferson hired writer James Callendar to assail incumbent president John Adams’ weight and sexuality.  He did so with a vengeance.
  • Davy Crockett publicly accused Martin Van Buren of wearing a lady’s corset (you can’t make this stuff up), thus impugning his sexuality.
  • It’s all but certain that Rutherford B. Hayes stole the presidential election of 1876, which was initially won, both in the popular and electoral votes, by Samuel Tilden.
  • The 1828 election between Andrew Jackson and John Quincy Adams featured Adam’s supporters attacking Jackson’s wife’s morality and suggested bigamy, and Jackson’s supporters calling Adams a “pimp” and claiming that his success as a diplomat was due to his ability to procure women for other ambassadors during negotiations.

Politics has always been nasty.  It’s always been rough and tumble.  But if anything, it’s gotten more civil, not less.

What Do You Think?

I’d love to hear your thoughts on why politics matters.  Click here to go to this article’s page on our website, and scroll down to leave a comment telling us what you think of this article, and whether or not you  agree.


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9 comments… add one
  • Thanks Hugo! Glad we have been able to help!


  • I try to read all newsletters and articles published in this website. As a new into organizing political parties and campaigns, it helping me in a bundle.. I got involved because ..POLITICAL REALLY MATTERS …!!
    thanks you guys..!!

  • Yancee, thanks for sharing that story. You’re right — too often all we hear about is the “bad,” when so much good happens in the political realm as well.

  • Yancee M. Hardy

    I couldn’t agree more. Politics is and should be considered an honorable service. A couple of years ago I worked on a campaign were we learned of some philandering that our opponent had engaging a few years before well after he was married and had children. Much to my surprise, the candidate I worked for ordered us not to reveal or discuss what we had learned with anyone… to include our personal friends and family. He even went so far as to say that he would fire anyone who did so. The reason being, he didn’t want to harm or embarrass his opponent’s family. The candidate I worked for was a few points behind in every poll and ended up losing the election, but never once did he cave to the pressure and temptation to expose the other candidate. I was thoroughly impressed by his conduct and behavior. I hope he runs for office again someday, and I hope that there are more men and women like him out there. Our country stands in great need of them.

    Yancee M. Hardy

  • Danny,

    Good points — you also outlined another reason why campaign operatives and volunteers need to be careful who they are working for… if you are working for a candidate who just doesn’t care, or who runs a half-hearted campaign (and I’ve seen plenty of them) you’re doomed — rare indeed is the campaign where the good work of the staff can make up for the poor work of the candidate.


  • Michael,

    Thanks for your thoughts – you make some good points. And you’re absolutely right — most people dislike congress, but like their individual congressman or woman.

    The point you make about the mass media is well taken — I guess the question is, which is worse: Adams supporters impugning Andrew Jackson’s wife, but 1/2 the voting public never hearing about it, or a modern politician saying something more benign about an opponent, and it being broadcast on news channels and internet sites 24 hours a day for two news cycles?

  • Michael Adkins

    Yes, politics matters. People are, however, frustrated with the political system more than with any individual elected official. It is like deriding lawyers, but when you need one you change your opinion quickly. People do not like Congress, but invariably vote for the incumbent.

    I agree that there have been nasty times in American politics. Today’s mass media magnifies the ugly side of politics more than ever before. Note how old your examples are, for instance. Through most of the 20th Century both sides of the aisle argued and fought, but after hours they remained civil. True compromise, where each side gave something up to get what they wanted, was far more prevalent, even during the ugliest times, than it is today. Even, the Dixiecrat’s use of the filibuster during the contentious civil rights legislation of the sixties was less than the current usage. I hate to say it but I kinda miss the days of picking candidates in smoke filled rooms. Our more democratic method of candidate selection has been far uglier, and the quality of the candidate is no better.

  • Danny L. McDaniel

    Great article, Joe! I would just add that everything depends on how bad you want it. The best cheerleader for a campaign is an energized candidate. No one can take the place of a good candidate that works hard and knows the fundamentals of the game: not the volunteers, not the campaign chair and manager, not the party establishment. For the most part, no one believes you can do it until after you have done it. The candidate is the face and personality of the campaign and nothing can take their place. No matter what office you are seeking, your life is now public record and open for all to read. Take advantage of it! Relish in it! You are part of the truly chosen few!

    Danny L. McDaniel
    Lafayette, Indiana

  • What do you think? Why does politics matter? (or not?)


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