Even in Bad Politics, There’s Good

Tuesday, February 17, 2015 - 16:30

Every news story in some way has political meaning.

Coverage of social media trends tells a story of the changing nature of human relationships, the essence of politics. A feature on any successful entrepreneur speaks volumes about our economy, the driver of many political deals. A government official on trial for bribery alerts us to the vulnerability of all government institutions, in which lie the hopes of protecting and preserving our democratic political system.

Too many of us either dismiss politics altogether or rank both it and its practitioners right down there next to garbage. The problem is that we the people make up the essential ingredient, the sine qua non, of politics. Without our presence, there is nothing. It is in turning our backs that we invite shenanigans from sharpies, stooges, sociopaths, self-interested cons or shady corporate interests ready to co-opt the action, the power and the money elected office virtually always controls.

Journalists can guide us to this recognition through how they write their stories. So I propose that news reporters interested in alerting ordinary folks to the possibilities of change and the roles they can play in it, ask themselves: “How can I show the way this story connects with the larger story of politics and governing?”

As citizens, we're going to always be angry, mystified, cynical, detached or disappointed if we’re led constantly to regard politics as separate from ourselves.

Push us. Prod us. Compel us toward a pragmatic curiosity about public affairs. Tell us why the deals may not be pretty, but how deals often balance legitimate competing interests and simply come with the political landscape. Steer us away from the notion that persistent disdain or willful disregard for government and elected officials will ever change a thing.

Remind us that in the greater part of our political history it’s the alignment of governing forces – rather than a typical fractious state of political party relations – that’s unusual. Show us how aspects of the harmony we hanker for are there in the quiet conversation among so-called adversaries, and how that continuous dialogue belies the popular trope that gridlock rules and always will.

Give us a news media that engenders awe and wonder and a measure of real understanding in my fellow citizens and me as we regard how and to what ends our politics, our governing and our government work. Some of those ends – despite how our eyes get directed to the corrupt, the frustrating and inept – represent results that add up to a whole lot of good for a whole lot of people. Make us value the fight enough to figure out how we can join it, too.