The Political Civilian

So we have a problem with our politics.
Unlike the more popularly diagnosed issues like “gridlock”, “tribalism”, “populism” and “Trump”, the problem I like to focus on is how - exactly - we interact with our politics.The vast majority of us - around 99% of us - are not journalists, activists, lawyers, academics, or political obsessives. And we shouldn’t have to be to successfully navigate a system that is - in theory - owned by its citizens. We are just political civilians.
But our current system isn’t set up to deal with that. We have to fit a mold. If we are to be journalists, we have to be objective and see “all sides”, often at the expense of truth. Academics demand precise attention to detail, history, and data to a degree that often ignores the imperfections of the world. If you’re an activist, party and / or policy fealty is demanded by most activist groups. And our system is so complex that lawyers and other specialists can build whole careers based on being experts one or two arcane areas of it.

There really isn’t a place for those of us that just want to live our lives and have some semblance of interaction and influence on a vast and complex modern government beyond a vote every two years. We’re civilians in a bigger political “battle” - and we are subject to forces that we can’t really control and often don’t have the tools to understand.

And a lot of us know just enough to be angry about things on the internet.

I know the immediate response to this thought is to “volunteer!”, “get involved!”, or “donate money!”. But all of those options assume that 1.) we have time in the day to do so, 2.) we know - how to get involved and what groups to get involved with, and 3.) we have have the money to financially support worthy organizations. Those options (like a lot of our politics) are dependent on privilege and resources that not everyone has. There’s an empty space there - a missing piece - that is not easily identified.
There’s a vacuum in our politics, and what most people hear is just a giant sucking sound.

So what does that mean?
I honestly don’t know. But I know that the dialogue we need to have on every level - with our ideological cohorts, racist uncles, professors, local activist groups, and political parties - is not the dialogue that we have right now.
We should be talking about something different, and in a different way.
Now, I’m a progressive. A strident one. And I have a lot of the beliefs that go along with that. Sick people should get medicine. Climate change is our most serious threat. Immigration is good. Women are people. Income inequality is a challenge. We have entrenched power structures and systems that are in desperate need of upgrades.
Declarations of principle are easy. But a lot of people (myself included) don’t feel a part of any of the groups listed above that report on, study or fight for those things. And we CAN better effect a system from the inside than from outside. So what’s next? What does it mean to be just a political civilian?
It may be a start for this to be a space where things can be called out in their most fundamental terms:
This policy will make people's’ lives worse.
That bill won’t do what its sponsors intend it to do.
This idea is short sighted.
Those people are being duplicitous.
Plenty of political pages out there offer answers, and yeah, this is mostly just going to be another political blog. But I hope I can make it into one that struggles with some bigger questions.
The way we - as people - talk about politics needs to change. And that’s not a small thing. Like I said, I don’t know what we - as political civilians - should be doing. We have “races” between “partisans” on “battlegrounds” with “bomb - throwers”, “land mines” and “attacks”. Political civilians need to find our place in that fight.
A lot of what I will post here will be partisan. And I have my biases. I’m a data geek and a progressive. I (mostly) consider myself an ally of the Democratic party. So I will approach things from that angle.
But I definitely welcome other angles with all of that in mind. The only thing that doesn’t interest me is non - sequiturs, and bad faith arguments. So don’t even start with either - you’re just getting ignored. A better political dialogue could do with more people being ignored. There are a lot of smart people out there trying to make this work, and the only thing I do know for certain is that we’re not getting it right at all.


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