You want to get political? Let’s get political about politics.
My last two blogs (Millions missing from Bain & Company ESOP and More on the Bain ESOP) created a bit of a stir: “This is a deliberate leftist commie attack on Romney!” False. “This is just an attempt to get views on your blog!” True. “Garbage!” Well, at least my mom says I’m cool.
What’s interesting to me is that so many of the remarks I received, publicly and privately, focused on analyzing the motivations behind the post rather than speaking to its content. A deep dive into the ESOP data provided could have revealed, at its most impactful, a monumental example of corporate malfeasance sitting square in the public eye (thrilling, but not very likely), and even less impactful could have been a valuable learning opportunity on the vagaries and ins-and-outs of IRS tax filings (more likely, but about as thrilling as Helvetica).
What I got in response to my blog was commentary about the commentary, rather than commentary about the content.
But that’s really what politics is, isn’t it? It’s commentary about the art and science of government, not government itself. And that’s why I have such a problem with the state of just about everything to do with it.
Whenever I’m listening to the radio (which, given the traffic in DC, is often) and they’re interviewing someone about a recent development from such-and-such a politician, the question is always raised as to the politician’s motivations. “He needed to buy up some more political capital.” “This will shore up the BBQ belt vote.” “She’s going to have a hard time recovering from that flub.” The reporting is almost never on the value or validity on what the politician actually did or said. That’s government. Why the politician did it? That’s politics.
Why can’t the answer to “why did a politician do or say X?” ever be as simple as, “it’s the right thing to do”? Because that’s rarely if ever the reason. Believe it or not, I’m not being cynical. I think that most politicians truly feel that they are doing things for the right reasons, and that their prime goal is to make a positive impact on society. No one promotes or opposes gun control or PPACA because they’re evil. Like any group, there’s the 2% who are jerks of course, but on the whole I believe that most politicians would do the right thing. But there’s a problem.
In front of you are two pills. One will make you violently ill. The other will make some other person, maybe someone you don’t even know, violently ill. Which one do you take?
That’s the choice between what is right and what is popular. Between what is hard and what is easy. It’s what will get you re-elected versus what will be best for the country. It’s not a choice inherent in every decision, but it does come up. And that’s why we comment on the commentary in politics: because all too often the tough choices are too much to stomach. We’re more interested in voyeuristically prying open the reasons behind the decision that we lose focus on the decision that was made and whether it was good. All that matters is whether or not we liked it.
I may not like a particular politician, but neither how many interns they’ve slept with nor how much money they make nor how much they know about how well their wife’s horse is doing at the Olympics has any bearing on how well I think they’d govern.
Just like who I’m voting for in November has no bearing on how interesting a particular 5500 is.
Would I publish a blog to get me more readers instead of one that might lose me readers but provoke thoughtful discourse? You tell me.