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Don’t give up on politics now

John Sandberg | Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Winston Churchill once said, “Politics is not a game. It is an earnest business.”
Wait, what?
Given the current state of affairs, Churchill would have to forgive us for thinking he was joking when he said this.
I can’t count the number of times I’ve been told by people my own age that they “hate politics” without offering much of an explanation. Yet sometimes it’s hard for me to blame them.
Has there ever been a more difficult time to care about, much less enjoy, politics?
I don’t know whether to laugh or cry when a couple weeks of emotional and behavioral therapy, the bill which is footed by the taxpayers, can be considered a concrete solution to one politician’s questionable moral character.
In a place where legislators tell us bills must first be passed in order for us all to know what’s in them, it’s hard for me to look at the charade and see earnestness in the men and women doing the business of public service.
When Chris Matthews uses an episode of “Hardball” to label some members of the opposing party as “political terrorists,” it seems an easier time than ever to question whether “the place for politics” is the place for me.
And when the tune of trumpets sounding the end of one election cycle sounds like little more than the the starting gun for the next one, it’s almost impossible to view the business of politics and see it as anything other than a game – a frivolous, expensive, sometimes comical, often times malicious and unending game.
Government has always been an enterprise made up of characters just as likely to inspire open palms to foreheads as standing applause. But with congressional approval threatening to dip into single digits throughout much of the past year, what has always been moderate disapproval is far too likely to become sheer apathy for politics at all levels.
Has there ever been a more difficult time to care about politics? By the looks of it, no.
And yet, has there ever been a more important time to care about politics?
Strangely, the answer to that is an equally resounding “no.”
Why care about politics in the era of never-ending elections and overzealous cable news hosts?
Politics alone may not influence everyone but public policy does. And, for better or worse, politicians make the policy. You can’t have one without the other.
The presidential election may not be until 2016, but there is that pesky – yet all important – 2014 midterm election before the race for the White House. Choosing who to put in office in 2014 is the most tangible way for us to have a say in the policies that are sure to affect us.
If elections aren’t your thing, maybe the mere fact that politics can be so ridiculous is all the more reason to care.
After all, the problems won’t fix themselves. Pretty soon, men and women from our generation will be the ones parading around CSPAN in bad haircuts and ill-fitted suits.
Shouldn’t our generation be working to produce the best and the brightest to serve in office? It can only happen if we stay involved and start demanding more of those who serve.
And if that alone is not enough for some to become involved, perhaps looking at the world around us will. Involvement is a relatively easy thing in America.
Political engagement doesn’t require us to dodge weapon fire in the street or make a choice between political action and our lives. It merely requires staying informed and refusing to give in to the temptation to tune out political discourse when it comes up.
Maybe, if for no other reason, we will choose to care more about politics simply because we can do so free from fear.
Depending on who you are, politics may never be enjoyable. But at the very least everyone can choose to care about the process itself.
Who knows, maybe it’s the first and most important step in making the earnest business of politics a reality rather than a joke.  

John Sandberg lives in Fisher Hall and is a senior studying political science. He can be reached at jsandbe1@nd.edu
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.