The New York Times ran an op-ed by Eitan D. Hersh, “Political Hobbyists Are Ruining the Country” in the Review Section Sunday July 2 Online, the title is “The Problem with Participatory Democracy is the Participants”. This sounds like a series of choices on a “My Weekly Reader” reading comprehension test in grade school, “the best title for this story is ..” Oh, that was third grade (1951) when the smartest girl in the class only got 44 out of 60 and poor little Bill got 16. There’s a similar story in the Boston Globe “The Most Dangerous Hobby” by Hersh, inspired by the WB classic film “The Most Dangerous Game” based on a story by Richard Connell. We read and watched that in 2005 when I was substitute teaching, in the middle of an incident caused by my own political hobbying.
So I’m one of the problem hobbyists. OK, when do I “pay my dues” and do my part? I do vote in all elections, including primaries. I have worked as an election judge three times in retirement, although not recently. I do talk to neighbors about elections. They’re both conservative to libertarian.
But I don’t raise money for candidates or issues. I don’t knock on doors. And don’t take orders from party operatives or pressure groups on what it is OK to say in a book, social media, or a blog. And some of the mail I get for partisan contributions (I got one from Donald Trump) is plainly ridiculous. (Back in 1984 I got a very bossy letter from the Dems on how much money I “owed” to help Walter Mondale.)
And I generally don’t respond to urgent pleas to text or call law-makers about very narrow, niche issues. I feel that if I did, that would dilute my effectiveness on when I have something unique to say. Sometimes I do sign online petitions. I think I signed one to free Chelsea Manning, which Obama did.
What’s more significant is that I have never run for public office. I can’t imagine asking people for money. But in 2000 I almost ran as the Libertarian Party candidate for the Senate from Minnesota. Another candidate, a gun enthusiast, would run instead and get himself arrested at Mystic Lake to make a point on the right to bear arms. You see how polarizing this gets.
We don’t encourage the right people to run. If someone like Anderson Cooper were president right now, the country would be just fine, with no scandals. I think Anderson would listen to Lindsey Graham and become hawkish enough on North Korea and ISIS (and Russia).
I don’t join mass movements for revolution right now, although I can never say never. Rather than put all my eggs in some revolutionary idea like single payer, that I know won’t pass, I try to solve problems within the existing system. Like, if you want to allow a barebones health plan for the young and healthy, accept the fact that you have to subsidize the already sick a lot more, and reinsure them, to deal with the anti-selection problem. If we already had single payer, it wouldn’t be controversial or debated – except that we would have to deal with waiting lists and sometimes end-of-life decisions. There is no way to escape the math. Life is not a zero-sum game, but you can’t get something for nothing. E is still M-C-squared. So, yes, I am a conservative. And gay. Welcome to Milo’s world.
The real problem is probably the gratuitous nature of my speech. I report to no one. I try to play devil’s advocate for everything, bring up all possible arguments. I would be more useful, say, working in intelligence, which might have been my career had I grown up in a later, more tolerant or accepting time.
As Milo has pointed out, a lot of times the Left especially (and sometimes the populist alt-right) doesn’t want to allow constructive counter arguments to be made, especially by intelleculoid “Uncle Tom’s” in their midsts. What partisan leadership sees is resurrecting old chestnuts that could be brought back to oppress or marginalize less competitive individuals in their groups. After all, at a certain moral level, almost any goal can be “rationalized”. A good example of this problem has occurred with HIV issues, when public health arguments, while valid (up to a point) can be used as an excuse for stigmatization or exclusion of gay men, a problem we had in the 1980s. Leadership of activist groups want obedience and consistency of messages among supporters, not people who ask (and particularly self-publish) analytic policy questions on their own.
But that is what I do. I want to keep an eye on the big picture, especially civilization -changing threats, not just local issues tied to my own identity groups. That is how I make a difference, in the long run. At least now Maybe not forever.
So much for “Hobby Lobby”.
(Posted: Thursday, July 13, 2017 at 9:30 PM EDT)