Thursday, August 07, 2008

Why Politics?

I'll admit to being a political junkie, it's bad stuff, I can't stay away from it even when there's no elections going on. I don't know if it's genetic or upbringing or just plain masochism. It matters to me. I do know that once you step outside the affection of your family and friends very little in our lives is outside the effects of politics. No matter your political orientation, this is true and you probably advocate for it in one form or another. Anarchists believe it, their version of no or little law would have huge impacts on your daily life and you'd find yourself practicing politics on a very narrow scale to survive. Libertarians are about the politics of money, you buy your safety and influence - oh pah, guys, broken down to its simplest elements that's your governing philosophy.

Politics is used as a dirty word sometimes and used that way it means exactly what the word doesn't mean. Politics is the process of managing a consensus of some form about how things will be done. It generally doesn't mean getting your way, it means finding a way to get most of your way by folding others into your agenda. There are ways to approach people about your ideas, ways that don't guarantee enemies and can get neutral or the not disposed to see where you're going as someplace they can, also. It can be done other ways, and when it is done other ways it generally works very poorly.

Lying to people to gain an end isn't politics, it is lying, taking bribes isn't politics, it is bribery, fear mongering and propagandizing and etc aren't politics, they have different names for a reason. They may get used for political ends, but anyone of them is just as applicable to other areas of life. How about "fear mongering" you ask, hey, you know those germs that'll get you if you don't use "x" brand of disinfecting soap? None of this is to say that those things are admirable, just to differentiate them from politics.

Sociology and politics are tightly related, sometimes cultural changes outpace political change and sometimes cultural change is driven by politics. We are currently involved in a very unpopular war, the people are way ahead of the political process in this case. But the South of today would not be as it is if political action had not preceded cultural change. Our prevailing view of labor today does not match that of 30 years ago and much of that change can be laid to the politics of Ronnie Reagan and his successors. Economists frequently make the case that economic trends are mostly beyond the reach of Presidents, this is true - in a very narrow sense. George W Bush cannot wave a magic wand at gasoline prices and make them go down immediately. That doesn't mean that there wasn't an impact of trading deregulation, there certainly was. It doesn't mean that his policies of the past 7 years haven't affected the price quite heavily, there is a little matter of the "fear surtax" added on due to Middle Eastern anxiety - see Iraq and Iran. Demand would have driven the price of gasoline up no matter what George II had done over the past 7 years, but the extent of the damage could be quite different.

In the past couple weeks I have been coordinating with the Jeff Merkley campaign for an event in Baker City, I firmly believe he is a much better representative for the State of Oregon than Sen Gordon Smith and I am trying to help him get there. I happen to believe that many of the residents of our County would agree with me if they are exposed to him. I find that Jeff Merkley shares many of my visions of good government and helping him is the closest thing I can do to having that voice. I want a President to have to deal with Jeff Merkley and I am sincerely tired of George W Bush's toady Gordon Smith.

I don't just write blog screeds to get my ideas and values into government, I take direct action. I have spent time, energy, thought, and money to extend my reach far beyond my personal wealth (not quite poverty) and elected position. My four elected positions are Precinct Committee Person, Vice-chair Baker County Democrats, State Central Committee Delegate, and Vice-chair DPO Gun Owners Caucus, nothing that makes me much of big gun. There are politicians from local to state to federal levels that will spend time with me, of their own choice and take me seriously. I am politic, I don't yell at them or pretend to be something, I approach them as reasonable humans with a tough job that I am willing to be helpful with. If I am not in accord with them on an issue I try to show them the advantages of my viewpoint. I save the pissed off hard-nosed SOB for you guys. I do understand that there are people in government that would be a waste of my time, those I try to defeat with a better replacement.

No matter whether you want to play in the political arena or not your life is intimately affected by the process. In some cases your intimate life is affected. The news you hear and read is driven by politics, the products you buy and where they are made is politically driven, the very crimes you don't commit or do are driven by politics, and how you make your living is politically driven. You would be hard put to make an example of your life that isn't subject to politics. Most people don't realize how deeply politics intrudes into their lives, even as they complain about it. I don't say that my level of involvement is the right thing for most people, it really isn't, but the level of involvement most take is not sufficient to the import of politics. Paying attention to what is being done to you and in your name and taking action in regard to that takes effort and time and maybe some money, but consider what it is I'm discussing and who will run it if you don't.

Many of the things you figure don't count, like the non-voters who say it doesn't matter, do count - they add up. A small campaign contribution by itself doesn't have much impact, lots of them do and the widespread amount of them makes an impact on political thinking. One letter to the editor may have little effect, but as they roll into that one paper and papers around the nation they have effect. Talking up a candidate or policy to a friend or acquaintance has an aggregate effect when very many people are doing it. Lots and lots of yard signs and such don't change a vote, but they do indicate to the uninvolved that this is a person to at least consider, someone held in respect by those numbers of others.

I know it's easier to complain than to do something, but really, little bits of something do make a difference.

No comments: