This Column Is Brought To You By The Letter P

This week’s Courier Herald Column:

Politics: It is the Process by which we the People decide how we will exert control over one another.  As government expands, we the people grow more and more dependent on the political process.  It’s what we discuss in this space weekly.  To some it’s just a game. To others it’s a spectator’s sport. Regardless how it is viewed and what level it is participated, it is how we end up with…

Policy: In theory, policy is why we have politics.  It’s what we want the government to do (or not do) based on the wishes of the general public and balanced against the rights of individuals affected.  But that’s just a theory.  These days, our public arguments seem to be about anything but policy.  Too often, they’re devoid of substance, and based too much on Personality.

Party: There was a time when our founding fathers debated policy on merits, with the sides taken changing from argument to argument.  Over time, alliances formed and eventually we devolved into political parties.  While initially a good way to help identify a brand associated with policy and a slate of candidates, it seems that over time, Party has become more important than Policy, with views on policy changing based on which Personality in which Party is making the proposal.

Principle:  To keep a party from totally drifting with the political winds, it must be rooted in principle.  Principles give a political party its soul.  It is the guidepost that helps us distinguish from making a good deal from a bad one.

Power: Power is now the goal of the parties, and maintaining or achieving power in a two party system too often trumps both policy and principle.  It is quite easy to tell one’s self that a vote or decision may go against principle in the short run but so long as power is maintained it is for the greater good.  Likewise, bad policy is often good politics, and both parties are more than willing to sign on to bad policy if even in only the very short term it appears to be good politics and helps maintain power just a little longer.

Pragmatism: There are times when folks who prefer something to nothing must decide if we are better off in enacting part of a policy or moving toward a goal rather than achieving everything in one giant step.  Most people call them pragmatists.  Some people in the Republican Party instead call them RINOs.  They are those that understand that the other side is winning by using pragmatic incrementalism, but instead believe in…

Purity: Is the belief in all or nothing. While most of us had the notion that we can always get all of everything we want sometime during kindergarten, there are those who still walk among us who espouse that we can.  These are the same folks that believe if you have lost an election, removing people who don’t agree with you from your party will help you get more votes in the next election.  While the goal of putting principle above all else appears noble on the surface, the ability to ignore all evidence to the contrary when being told that principle can be enacted without some understanding of pragmatism leads to…

Petulance: This is the too common reaction from those who cannot offer a winning strategy to enact their principled policy.  They begin to attack those who are trying to help them and their party for not being pure.  No one wishes to associate with the petulant, as they are childish and defy logic.  In politics, projecting petulance usually leads to problems with…

Polls: Polls are temporary snapshots of public opinion, but during an era of 24 hour news feeding the general public and narcissism fueling the unlimited ambition of the political class, polls matter.  An essential part of any strategy to implement principled policy must account for messaging and how the public will react, even in the very short term, to polls.  If there is no Plan, and the messengers driving the message appear petulant, there is only one world that will describe the short term polls, and the likely result the next time the voters return to the real polls:

Poor.  Those who fail to understand how the various P’s of politics interconnect will likely never read a column that was sponsored by enough numbers to add up to more than fifty percent.


  1. seenbetrdayz says:

    So, how do you reconcile principle and purity? Principles don’t mean anything if you won’t stick to them, but if you do stick to them, you’re considered a purist. You can’t have it both ways.

    And there’s a slight issue with the definition of politics: it’s how we exert control over our government. It’s only because we’ve started using it to exert control over one another that we’ve ended up in the mess we’re in.

    • benevolus says:

      I would say- if you are into purity, you shouldn’t be in elective politics. You should be advocating for an issue- to everybody who will listen.

      • seenbetrdayz says:

        Well, let’s say, just hypothetically, that there was a candidate running for the white house who campaigned on ending civil liberty abuses made by his predecessor. But once he got into office he actually enacted policies that were much more harmful for civil liberties than his predecessor.

        So you’ve got the scenario, here’s what I’m getting at:

        At what point does holding that president accountable become a matter of ‘purity’ rather than ‘principle’? Wouldn’t you want that president to be held accountable? And then, what if, while trying to hold that president accountable, you had people from within your own party calling you “petulant” for noticing these abuses and making a big deal about it, even though it was one of the major campaign issues at the time.

        • benevolus says:

          Maybe it’s about scale, and punishment fitting the crime; that sort of thing. “ONE of the MAJOR issues AT THE TIME”.
          You know and I know that politicians have to say stuff to get elected. You have to read between the lines a little bit, and also- things change. Obama can’t run again so accountability isn’t going to be a productive avenue. Legacy, however, may be.

  2. saltycracker says:

    Charlie, Philosophically positive post but perplexing post posts predictably political phlegm.

    Patriotism: A Madisonian system of government

    Obama, tea party share impatience with system
    By George Will (Sunday AJC)
    Much is wrong with Washington these days, including much of what is said about what is wrong. Many Americans say there is “too much politics” in Washington. Actually, there is too little. Barack Obama deplores “politics as usual” here. But recently Washington has been tumultuous because politics, as the Framers understood it, has disintegrated. Obama has been complicit in this collapse.

  3. Baker says:

    Purity is fine. Telling supporters than you can overturn the healthcare law when there is absolutely zero percent chance of that happening is fraud.

    • Harry says:

      Oh, there’s a high probability that O-care will be overturned or greatly modified. Just because a law is bad doesn’t mean it can’t be overturned! You know that.

      • Baker says:

        Maybe after the Republicans win an election. Unfortunately, we just had one of those. Republicans lost. Dems may decide to modify it at some point, what the Republicans did though has no impact on that whatsoever. All that happened was they distracted from the beginning of Obamacare and turned attention to the shutdown.

        • Daniel N. Adams says:

          Ah, but the rePublicans did when some elections and control of the House. And according to that Problematic document, aka, the Constitution, they control the Purse strings of the Plundered Proceeds of the American taxPayer. So when a handful try to stand up to a much larger force in the face of low odds of success to try stop an injustice being forced upon free People… according to the Pecedent of American history, is seen by many as the Patriotic thing to do.

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