U.S. Capitol.

Politics: It’s the Journey, not the Destination

It’s been a long time since I discussed politics here. I occasionally get into politics over on Twitter, but rarely do I write about it. I don’t consider myself a political wonk so I leave the blogging to the wonks. However, I am not exactly a political outsider either. With years under my belt in the political epicenter of the country – the Greater Washington, D.C. Region – I’m not exactly naive about the political gamesmanship that happens every day.

Now, living in Austin, Texas – the state capital, and center of political activity in the great State of Texas – it’s not like I’m unaware of the way things work on a state level either (though admittedly, I know far less about Texas politics than I do about Maryland or National politics). However, living and traveling outside of the Beltway bubble has been enlightening in how the rest of the country sees the political process.

More or less, outside the beltway, the vast majority of laypeople see politics as something that is offensive, or at minimum, charged with rhetoric, hate and something that is to be shunned in casual social scenarios. Things are so personal to the electorate that, right or left, the objective of governing is lost. The right sees the left as a bloc of people intent on taking away personal liberties, led by a man so vilified for ideas that are less written in stone, and more written in perception based on questionable, if not indiscriminately inaccurate, data.

The left is not much better. The left sees the right as a segment of the country who wants to simply obstruct every bit of progress possible, while returning the country to a racist, misogynist, hateful past.

Both of these perceptions, while steeped in some level of truth, are shams. Both highlight tendencies that reflect deeper conditions among both groups. But here’s the funny part… Both views are curated by both parties inside the beltway.

Whyever would anyone want to perpetrate these despicable ideas???

It’s funny how politics works. Politics is based entirely on manipulation and both parties (the establishment, not the people holding a voter registration card in South Dakota) are masters of it. Politics exists for the sake of power and both parties know that. Both parties also know they need each other to retain power. Both parties agree and walk in unison on 80% of issues. It’s the 20% that is a grand, choreographed display of artistic fortitude. It’s the 20% that allows the GOP to fire up their base of voters to keep keep them (or re-take) power. It’s the 20% that carries the Democrats to a 2006 and 2008 landslide based on anti-Bush sympathy and promises of Hope and Change. It’s the 20% that turns the Tea Party into a movement to be reckoned with in 2010.

Both parties know this and both parties work in lock-step to ensure this epic drama unfolds as it’s supposed to. To do so ensure that Democrats and Republicans lock-in the two party system, that benefits both of them in terms of money and power, for decades to come. To fail to do so (as in, an apathetic American public who isn’t angered by the Thème de la Jour), reveals cracks in the armor, possible loss of campaign contributions, corporate lobbying dollars, and power.

Having lived inside the Beltway, Hill staffers from both sides of the aisle put on their contorted political dance during the day, on television, radio programs, interviews and other media avenues, just to go to happy hour with their colleagues from across the aisle after hours. They are just like us in their every day life (with maybe more hectic schedules). They watch sports, go shopping, eat at restaurants, enjoy craft beers and go through their lives like all of us. The difference is, when they are at work, they are creating an elaborate illusion for the rest of the country.

The illusion is one of hatred, angst, bitter rivalries and political gamesmanship. The point: Keep the proletaria right so bent out of shape about Obama (or whoever) policies and the grassroots left looking at disgust at Republicans using parliamentary games that block Democratic initiatives.

It’s all a game.

Which brings me to the point I took a long time getting to: the GOP primaries.

Last night, I watched as Twitter exploded with chatter about Arizona and Michigan results where Mitt Romney won handily and barely, respectively. People scoffed at Santorum’s pro-life, anti-abortion stance while (inaccurately) putting out misinformation like, “If Santorum gets elected president, he’s going to take away your condoms”. Likewise, equally vilifying statements were made about Mitt Romney.

Now, I am not a partisan. I am unaffiliated with either party and I’m certainly not casting any support to the GOP candidate or to President Obama. I just don’t know who I’ll vote for in November. But I’ll tell you that watching the ongoing angst over the GOP Presidential hopefuls is both funny and tragic. It’s funny because… well, the GOP will get a 40% base no matter who gets the nomination and Obama will get his 40% base no matter who gets the nomination. It’s the 20% in the middle that will decide the race. You can get pissed off about Obama  but the historical data on election trends speaks for itself. Likewise, you can throw statements around about Romney and Santorum, but there’s no reason to believe that the election results in November will break any other way than they always have.

It’s tragic because I realize so few people sit back and enjoy the process. They lose the process through the politics. The process – the primaries as well as the other aspects of Washington work – is a beautiful work of art that has been around for centuries. The system is to be cherished. The politics not so much.

The primaries are not about elections. They aren’t even about politics. They are a mechanism of a party to determine who is going to be on the ticket for the general election (which is about politics). The rules for primaries are different between parties. The outcomes are irrelevant, except for the party internal mechanisms.

While the media does 24 hour coverage of these cycles (did ya hear Super Tuesday is coming up?!), the electorate gets more worked up into a fevered frenzy. It’s sort of like the snake charmer and the cobra where we the people are the cobra and the media and the beltway operation is the snake charmer.

So enjoy this process. Enjoy our system of government that, while not perfect, is still quite amazing. Everything that is old is new again. Everything new is fading away. It’s made up of cycles and we are just players in a grand dance.

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Not Everything is Quite as Important as You're Making it Out to Be

If our lives only involved this world of technology, then life would be a much better place. If life was as simple as simply going to Google and clicking “I feel lucky”, then we might not have the heartache that is in the world and the social media space could just get along by whispering sweet nothings to each other in 140 characters or less.

Let me say I’m really proud of Robert Scoble lately. He is the only one in the group formerly known as the Techmeme crowd who is demonstrating how much he “gets it”. The other day he broke from his normally socially interactive groove to talk about politics and he made a strong case for the abandonment from Palin-focus and instead pleading people to write about issues that are important to them.

Ironic because only days before, my friend Erin and I were talking over IM and discussing how the momentum of the race flows unequivocally toward the McCain campaign as long as the focus, positive or negative, stays on Sarah Palin. I didn’t blog it because… you know… it’s not what I write about.

But there’s a greater story here, and one that everyone needs to get. You all need to hear this loud and clear. This is September 2008. It is the boiling point of the Presidential election. Debates are a week away and we will know who our next president is in 45 days or so.

What are the political discussions on the blogosphere today?

Let’s not forget the flap last week about lipstick.

Backdrop all this by Bloody Monday on Wall Street where stocks crashed 500 points, or 4.4% on YAFIF, or Yet Another Financial Institution Failure. Actually, two YAFIFs today. Lehman Brothers filed for bankruptcy and Merrill Lynch was absorbed into Bank of America as the parade of failed high level financial institutions continue behind Freddie Mac, Fannie Mae, Countrywide, Bear Stearns and others.

As a practical sidenote, the Great depression began as a series of double digit percentage drops on the market and the Black Monday crash of 1987 was a 22.5% decline by itself. The downturn of today may be large, but is a far cry from the entire volume of the market. Also, every system goes through a self-cleansing period where junk is cleaned out to make room for new and solid product. The market is just self-correcting at the moment and historically shows remarkable resiliance.

But my point is this: quit worrying about everyone else and worry about yourself. Take care of your families, jobs and responsibilities. Go and vote on issues, not personalities. Remember, we have to live with whoever we vote into office in November. There are much bigger things to be concerned with during this very difficult time than lipstick and moosehunting.

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