06 March 2007

No More Politics?

Sarah Palin campaigned on a pledge that there would be no more "politics as usual." (I'm pretty sure that's a direct quotation.) But the way she's been acting lately, it's as if she wants no more politics, period.

I've been noticing, when I listen to her press conferences and read her public statements, that there's a certain approbation attached to the word "politics" whenever she uses it. When asked about the potential of her running for the U.S. Senate in 2008, she said something to the effect of, "Oh, that's politics and I don't have time to think about that." There was a definite distaste attached to the p-word when she used it.

Now, she's criticizing the senate majority for passing ethics legislation without her amendments. Notice the use of the p-word:

“My hope was that the Senate Majority was following our lead in setting politics aside and doing what is best for Alaska,” said Governor Palin. It appears today, some politicians are more interested in politics as usual.”
I guess my problem with all this is that I don't understand what the governor means.
What exactly is "politics as usual" (a fine shibboleth if there ever was one) and what does it mean not to practice it/them anymore? Is politics as usual a campaign for public office in which one identifies with a particular party and puts forth one's platform? Surely that can't be bad.

In the ethics legislation case, the governor appears to be asking the senate majority to set aside not politics but process, i.e. the process of considering ideas in committee, refining them, and forwarding them to the senate floor for a vote.

The much larger problem here is that to criticize one's opponent for practicing "politics as usual" is an intensely political act. Can you honestly tell me there is no political advantage to be gained from portraying the senate's ethics reforms as insufficient and demanding more? Just like in the campaign when Palin said she didn't want to divide people by talking about subsistence like her "opponents" did, she's acting as if she is pure and above the issue but actually engaging in it just the same.

I'm all for a honest and open discussion of policy and I'm hopeful we'll always be able to have one. But politics - however you define it - will always be intricately linked to policy. Accepting that now and seeking to minimize some of the excesses of politics (blind partisanship, a stifling of minority rights, and so forth) seems the best approach to me.


Anonymous said...

Here here. I agree that politics (a term that entails power relationships) will always be linked to policy (a set of rules to realize the desired outcomes). Admittedly you sent me searching for the meaning of the term "Shibboleth".

Palin's rhetoric to me reflects her lack of experience as a public official. Saying things like that may fly in Wasilla, where the dichotomy may be more clear cut. But you are right to question exactly what she means when she throws something like "politics as usual" out there.

First Alaskan Man said...

Yes indeed. “Shibboleth”: if you are a drinking man has earned you at minimum, three drinks from me. BOT, here we come!
I like SP, however, the high road shouldn’t include phrases such as “politics as usual”. Politics as usual, to me, means getting more votes then the other guy. Politics as usual, at the end of the day, is what brings home the projects.

Jesse Zink said...

Shibboleth - slogan; catchword; a common saying with little current meaning or truth.

It's a great word, really handy in some situations.

(from the Old Testament, Judges 12:4-6)

I guess that's the influence of my Hebrew classes.