Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Politics at Play

Playing Politics. What an odious phrase this has become. When one is accused of "playing politics" with an issue or event it has come to mean an ignoble attempt to take advantage for pure partisan reasons. What I would love to know is why this is in any sense unusual or for that matter particularly undesirable?

If it is anything politics is the art of working one's individual or collective will to advance an agenda of policy prescriptions or to denigrate and attempt to stop policies and legislative efforts which which one disagrees. Politics is "our" ideas against "yours" and everything else is details which are of course the Devil's playground but such applies to all human endeavor, political or otherwise. To quote Lil' Abner "Them GOPs and Democrats each hates the other one. They's always criticizin' what the other's gone and done." which is an entirely salubrious state of affairs to this avowed admirer of cholesterotic partisanship.

Everyone plays politics. Thou canst not be a political animal without doing so. This animal, i.e us, presumably would like to see his preferred policy agenda advance through the legislative system towards implementation. Said animal perforce naturally wants to associate himself with an organization that agrees with his general outlook. What we have to answer that need is political parties. Many many folks despise this allegedly parlous state of affairs which manifests itself in our general binary political landscape. But why? This binary arrangement has ample room for disagreement within party structure as proved by the frequently fractious nature of debate within parties. A wide range of policy preferences, from the center to the extremes, is serviced to varying degrees in either party apparatus.

Many bemoan this largely binary approach and maintain that the major parties cannot represent the full range of political thought in the country. To whatever extent this is true it is a strength and not a weakness since out of party chaos usually bubbles up candidates and policy initiatives that hover, usually, somewhere about the centers of their respective political spectra. This only makes sense because in presidential terms a fringe candidate's chances for nationwide success are extremely low, practically zero.

These respective party centers, however representative of their own middle ranges they may be, are usually very far apart in tone, methodology and ideological thrust. Consequently the all too human, therefore all too political, tendency is to attempt to denigrate and vilify an opposing candidate's ideas to whatever extent possible. As we often see this process can be nasty in extremis but it is nonetheless an utterly healthy phenomenon. It is the primary method available for keeping parties "honest". Loudly calling BS on a political operative's statements is not a lamentable defect of the system but rather its finest feature.

Every political animal has its own style in this process ranging from sober measured reflection to violent profane name calling. We the public must decide what we like most or least about his process and act accordingly. That this is often a tragically imperfect process is beside the point but in a republic it has proven the least worst of all other methods.

A binary party system has its defects but they pale against the deficiencies of parliamentarian fractiousness wherein many competing factions jockey for supremacy. Ironically the "coalitions" that result from willy-nilly multi-party negotiations usually end up distilling disparate power bases into two competing entities that mimic the entrenched binarism of the U.S.

Playing politics, hurling possibly unsubstantiated charges answered by the same or worse, is not a lamentable defect but rather a signal virtue. The "truth" will out, especially in this information rich age, so have at it people. Call your names, assassinate other's characters, question each other's patriotism, yell from the rooftops, lie like rugs, parade in the streets, wave goofy banners, carry on like afflicted nut cases, do it all. Play politics like entities possessed. Enjoy yourself and thank your lucky stars that in this country character assassination is a preferred method as opposed to what obtains in too many corners of the earth which is actual assassination.

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