Musings about nature of politics

Published 11:34 am Friday, April 5, 2013

Occasionally, when the political seasons slumber, nodding in between elections and crisis’ both imagined and created, there are brief moments when we the people can reflect upon what is the nature of the beast of politics in America?

Fortunately, to do so, we have the collected wisdom of so many who came before use to help make the reflection both serious and amusing.

In a truly prophetic moment, descriptive of the Republican House of Representatives currently in power, Mark Twain once wrote, “Suppose you were an idiot and suppose you were a member of Congress; but I repeat myself.”

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And on matters of budget, the primary role of Congress, we have Milton Friedman, Nobel Prize winning economist and famous dearly departed conservative who opined, “If you put the federal government in charge of the Sahara desert, in five years there would be a shortage of sand.”

Friedman may well have been aware that, in recent decades, a Democratic president reduced the deficits and Republican presidents have expanded the deficits, allowing for the conviction that for some there can indeed never be enough sand.

Still, it is noble that Republicans can, while spending and borrowing until their bellies explode, when out of the presidency do show remorse…that the other party is at fault for the debt incurred by Republican presidents.

But of course both political parties are known for their flawed but sometimes entertaining natures. P.J. O’Rourke wrote about the Democrats: “The good news is that according to Obama the rich will pay for everything. The bad news is that, according to the Obama administration, you’re rich.”

In a duel of witty economists from across the political spectrum, John Kenneth Galbraith, noted liberal, wrote “The modern conservative is engaged in one of the world’s oldest exercises in moral philosophy; that is, the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness.”

And in describing conservatism, none other than President Franklin Roosevelt said, “A conservative is a man with two perfectly good legs who, however, has never learned how to walk forward.”

Describing liberals Carter Glass wrote, “A liberal is a man who is willing to spend someone else’s money.”

Describing both parties, P.J. O’Rourke adds: “The Democrats are the party who says government will make you smarter, taller, richer, and remove the crabgrass from your lawn. The Republicans are the party that says government doesn’t work and then they get elected and prove it.”

Perhaps the greatest wisdoms and follies have been written or said about the electorate itself:

“One of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors.” — Plato

“Always vote for principle, though you may vote alone, and you may cherish the sweetest reflection that your vote is never lost.” — John Quincy Adams

“If we don’t believe in freedom of expression for people we despise, then we don’t believe in it at all.” — Noam Chomsky

“A fool and his money are soon elected.” — Will Rogers

But, occasionally, while our politics can be buried in their more ugly elements, someone reminds us of the noble intent of the American political system:

“Let us not seek the Republican answer or the Democratic answer, but the right answer. Let us not seek to fix the blame for the past. Let us accept our own responsibility for the future.” — John F. Kennedy.

Governing in America is, most often recently, not appealing to the country in general. But maybe we can still find it in our hearts to elect the right people to do the right things.


Jim Crawford is a retired educator and political enthusiast living here in the Tri-State.