10 things political junkies should be thankful for this holiday.
It’s time for Thanksgiving. That means time with friends, family and for reflecting on all the things we have to be thankful for this year. Oh and don’t forget those awkward political arguments around the dining room table with your relatives that “just don’t get it.”
Please forgive the lame joke, but for political junkies like me now is a great time for us to reflect back on our chosen passion and remember what we have to be thankful for, after all Congress is shutdown for the holiday, so there’s nothing good on C-SPAN anyway! So in the spirit of political scientist Jonathan Bernstein’s great list of 15 things for political junkies to be thankful for from 2011, here’s my contribution:
(1) Political Journalists: Oh we love to criticize and hector them when they get things wrong and when we think they are being unfair to our chosen tribe, but we would be lost without them. All those boring stories about what “senior White House sources say” actually give us something to write about. And without them all of us pundits, bloggers, and political activists would be at a huge loss. Also there would be fewer targets for our amateur ridicule.
(2) Political Scientists: These guys have been studying politics for over a hundred years now as an organized discipline in academia, but for whatever reason they’ve long been excluded from much of our popular debate about politics in America. Fortunately, there’s been a renaissance of blogging by political scientists over the last few years, my favorites would probably be The Monkey Cage at The Washington Post, A Plain Blog about Politics or the Mischiefs of Faction blog that’s all about political parties.
(3) British Politics: If you ever get bored or depressed with American politics, just head across the pond where you can read about a whole bunch of other silly dysfunctional pathologies. The British House of Commons makes me feel like I’m back in high school and when it comes to falling into the sea, those Brits beat us every time.
(4) Twitter: It used to be that reading the newspaper every day was the sign of a political junkie, now though you can get a steady stream of news and commentary 24/7. When you find yourself tweeting at national political reporters at 1:00 am on a Saturday, well then you’ve truly arrived in political junkie land.
(5) Blogger Feuds: There are few things better than political feuds, but a good blogger feud can be one of those things. A few of my favorites from the past would be Matt Yglesias and Marc Thiessen arguing about waterboarding and Ta-Nehisi Coates and Andrew Sullivan arguing about race and intelligence.
(6) Esoteric Constitutional Debates: There’s probably no practical point to debate over whether our constitutional system of government is better or worse than the British Westminster model or other types of parliamentary models used around the world, but that doesn’t stop us from trying! As I see it the Constitution isn’t going anywhere, the closest we came to overthrowing it was during the Civil War, so unless we are prepared to fight another one, there’s no real point to these kinds of debates. But if there’s one thing the internet is good for, it’s pointless theoretical debates!
(7) Special Elections: Sure they don’t really tell you anything about the future of American politics, they are after all highly localized affairs that tend to be dominated by people that don’t represent the typical electorate in a regular election. But they sure are fun to watch.
(8) Caucuses: Does anyone actually know how the Iowa Caucuses actually work? Okay I do, but that’s because I live in Minnesota where we have something called the “walking sub-caucus” model that makes the Iowa system look easy. No matter, it’s more fun than New Hampshire’s boring old primary.
(9) Socialists and Libertarians: Good political writing should probably focus on ideas and movements in proportionality to their actual influence. But that can be boring! Writing about Harry Reid and John Boehner gets you only so far, so it’s always fun to go off into la la land and learn about how all work everywhere is tyranny or why actually the real tyrants are lazy grocery store workers not following the rules.
(10) 2016: Don’t listen to the haters; it’s never too early to start thinking about the next presidential race that’s already very much underway. After all, it’s only a little over two years to the Iowa Caucuses!
Photo Frank Kehren/Flickr