Yes, It Is Politics

I’ve been told recently by several people, all of whom are active in politics, “I don’t do politics.” What they mean to say is, “I don’t do electoral politics,” because that branch of politics in America has become so toxic. But “politics” does not mean only elections.

According to Wiktionary,

From the adjective politic, by analogy with Aristotle’s τα πολιτικά (ta politiká, “affairs of state”).

and from Wikipedia,

Politics (from Greek: Πολιτικά, politiká, ‘affairs of the cities’) is the set of activities that are associated with making decisions in groups, or other forms of power relations among individuals, such as the distribution of resources or status.

Politics is the set of activities that are how we make decisions as a society. Have you donated to the Sierra Club? Have you written a letter to your congresswoman? Have you gone to a rally or a vigil? Sign a petition? Did you participate in MLK Day events? These are all political activities, which is why politicians are involved in all of them. These are all part of what goes into how we make decisions as a society.

Everyone participating in the discussion about policy 206 of the school district is engaging in politics. There’s no voting or electoral politics here, it’s a community lobbying its representatives to change an outcome that’s important to them. That is politics. Every time you speak at a meeting or write an email to a school board member or commissioner is politics.

Both types of political activities, the hard politics of elections and the softer politics of influence, are necessary to move society forward. If we hadn’t elected the board members we have, they would not be listening to our lobbying. And if people didn’t reach out to them, the policy would have passed without alteration. Both types of politics were needed. Particularly on the township side of our local politics, in the past I’ve had my elected representatives ignore my emails and mock me at public meetings. Electing Shaina Barnes (and appointing Stephanie King before her) has been a marked shift. We now have commissioners that we can discuss our neighborhood’s concerns with. Electoral politics has made influence politics possible. And as a result we now we have roads paved, park improvements, new stop signs, etc.

This is one of the most influential quotes I’ve found from MLK, demanding that all of us engage in politics,

Now, we got to get this thing right. What is needed is a realization that power without love is reckless and abusive, and that love without power is sentimental and anemic. (Yes) Power at its best [applause], power at its best is love (Yes) implementing the demands of justice, and justice at its best is love correcting everything that stands against love. (Speak) And this is what we must see as we move on.

From Where Do We Go From Here

For those that really don’t do politics, for those that avoid even the softer influence politics, read more of Dr. King’s works. They are a compelling call for all of us to take action. He knew well that we only have the power to do the work of love and justice together. Don’t expect me or Commissioner McKenzie or Director Wachtman or Joe Biden or anyone else to solve society’s problems for you. It takes everyone pulling together.

And for those that do this work already, stop telling me you don’t do politics. You do. And we’re the better for it.

Categories: Ramblings