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.
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.