Why I Love Politics

Politics can make you angry, but but that's democracy.

Posted Jul 23, 2011

I confess --- I love politics.

But it seems that I'm a decided minority these days, as many Americans are angry and upset with their federal government.  The anger I hear has many sources, ranging from angst about the economy and the lack of jobs, to disgust with the current stalemate over the federal government's debt. 

The Washington Post-ABC News Poll recently asked a question in their polling, probing whether or not people "feel enthusiastic, satisfied by not enthusiastic, dissatisfied but not angry, or angry" with the way the federal government works.  In their most recent poll, 80% said had a negative opinion of the way the federal goverment is working --- 25% were angry, and 54% were dissatisfied.  This is up from 69% in early June.

In difficult times like these, politics can be ugly, upsetting, and unsatisfying.  But that's the nature of politics, especially in the sort of representative democracy that we have in America.  The very nature of our system makes governance difficult, sometimes almost impossible, and that is what I find fascinating about our politics.

The founders of our nation set our system up to favor the status quo.  By developing different political institutions, each based in a different form of political representation and with different and overlapping powers, our federal government was established in ways that favor conflict.  Presidents are selected nationwide, to represent the broad interests of the country; Senators are selected from the various states, to represent those interests; those in the House of Representatives are elected from more finely-drawn districts, to represent narrower interests.  And so on.

Out of this conflict emerges compromise.  Compromise means giving up some of what one group prefers in order to gain other preferred outcomes.  This process of compromise, the give and take of political bargaining, is not pretty.  It's not satisfying.  It makes people unhappy, and sometimes angry.  But it's the nature of our political system, and watching the process work can be fascinating.

So while we watch our political leaders in Washington bicker and try to find a way out of the debt dilemma, keep in mind that is how our system is designed to work.