Thursday, February 13, 2020

Hersh's Politics is for Power is a Serious Indictment of Political Hobbyism

Eitan Hersh is a political science professor.  Like me, he is surrounded by people who follow and talk politics incessantly.

Yet also, like me, he became dissatisfied with just talking about it.

Worse, he noticed that when you are trying to organize a practical action to actually get candidates elected and bills passed, the people most informed about national politics are often no help. 

Moreover, they can talk national polls, but don't really know anything about the politics of their own community -- where their involvement could make a real difference.

Hersh has concluded that this intense involvement in following political news is best understood as a hobby -- on the same order as fishing or model railroading or Star Trek cosplay.  And that is fine as a leisure pursuit.

But political hobbyism misleads us into thinking that it contributes to the actual aim of politics: to gain power in order to make things better for citizens.

I feel the indictment in Hersh's stories.  I am moved to take more practical political action.


Brendan said...

This hits me right in the confirmation bias. Even as much as I try to avoid social media, I feel surrounded by people who follow national issues with zeal to the point of aggression, but would struggle to name their state legislators, much less their city officials. But the real danger to vulnerable people from the highest levels of government lends the feeling that the national-politics hobby is invested with holy purpose.

Ken Lammers said...

Thanks for the heads up. I put the book next in my Audible queue (2 hour commute every day).

I usually see things from the other side. The best way I can describe party regulars is as members of a club. For the people who have been coming to meetings in February and March during off election years and who fought that heated battle over who would control the local water board last year, the influx of outsiders who show up in the year of a Presidential election is disturbing. Who are these people? Why do they think they should have a say in how the party runs? Have they canvassed door to door? Have they worked phone banks? Did they care when Bob was trying to get elected jailer?

And then all the new faces disappear again after the second Tuesday in November and the club goes back to normal for three more years.