Git ‘er done

21 02 2013

A person without interests has no business in politics. Further: A person who is all principle and no interests is a menace to politics*.

Those were a pair of off-the-cuff remarks I made to Jtte in response to some statement she made about the movie Lincoln and the allegedly nefarious means used to pass the 13th Amendment. For chrissakes, I said, are people really shocked that deals are made in order to accomplish anything?

(Well, Thomas Frank is, apparently, but as much as I enjoy his Doris Kearns Goodwin-bashing, I think he needs to dry his eyes and unclutch his pearls.)

What was that line about how the British Labour Party managed to get the National Health Service through Parliament? Ah, here it is: NHS champion Aneurin Bevan overcame doctors’ opposition to his plan when he “stuffed their mouths with gold”.

Goddamned right. If that’s what he needed to do in order to bring health care to every citizen of Britain, then stuff away.

I am not in any way opposed to principle in politics: It is at the core of why anyone should bother with it, and without it politics degenerates into a corrupt flea market.

But politics without interest isn’t politics, either, as much as it pains this Arendtian to say that: It is instead a high-minded—and inert—debate club. It is not enough to proclaim one’s principles and ideals; one must also get something done.

And when there is opposition in principle, you get something done by appealing to interest. No, the true believers won’t be “bought off”, but those for whom something is a moderately- rather than strenuously-held principle, one can bargain one’s interest in order to shape the policy more in line with one’s principles.

As a political scientist, as well as a leftist whose views are not adequately represented by the Democratic Party (and, I have to add, as a still-too-gleeful observer of current Republican and conservative agita), I’ve thought a lot about compromise and lesser evils, holding fast and moving over. When I was younger I was much more militant—which only meant I agonized over my pragmatism.I might vote for the Dems, but I felt bad for doing so.

No more. Now my attitude is take what you can get, then take some more.

I still agonize, to be sure, because there are some matters which are either/or, and by voting for this senator and that president, I’ll end up electing someone who will end up on the either when I am holding to the or.

But most things aren’t all-or-nothing, and always refusing anything less-than-all is apt to leave you with nothing.

~~~~

*By this I mean electoral politics and elected politicians. Those who lead social movements might lean more on principle than do politicians, but even social leaders have to take stock in order not to become either fanatics and/or useless.

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3 responses

21 02 2013
21 02 2013
geekhiker

Is it bad that I got to paragraph 4 and thought “geez, I wish I was important enough that someone wanted to stuff my mouth with gold…”

Okay, maybe not really. Well, sorta. I mean, I’d be willing to try it just once. You know, purely for experimental value.

23 02 2013

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