Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Politics of Optimism

Many people laugh at me when I say this, but politics is inherently optimistic.  The premise of political action, in most cases, is that "things are not as good as they could be".  This premise is not limited to intervention and also applies when the political body determines that government has over-stepped or hurts more than it helps.

Things are not as good as they could be.

Optimists seem drawn to political service to begin with, although the more common term is "arrogance".  "I think I can make things better and want to put my name on the line in trying."

In this context, cynicism is the core opponent.  It's not Republicans v. Democrats or conservatives v. liberals.  Its cynics v. optimists.  Party labels don't overlap.  It is sincerely optimistic to believe that indiscriminate and invisible market forces can guide the appropriate allocation of resources in education, health care, and other public services.  Similarly, the idea that "government", without the strictures of the market and no governing force other than those that put the policies in place, can make our lives better requires a great deal of optimism (and trust). 

If you strip all the optimism away, all you are left with are custodians with gold name-tags.

Attend these meetings.
Sign this declaration.
Shake this hand.
Cut this ribbon.

Throughout my campaign, I've had the good fortune to meet over two dozen different elected officials from all over the state.  Nary a custodian amongst them.  They all have deep-seeded optimism tested with the question "What do you want to do next?"  It is an intimate question because it proposes failure.  What might you try to do, but fail in accomplishing?  But politics is optimism and failure is ignored.

The first step in creating positive change is being optimists and making optimists of our neighbors.  We shouldn't be discouraged by cynicism.  It's there.  It will always be there.  It is a weak enemy.  Sometimes all you need to do is show the path.  Sometimes all you need to do is ask them the question "What do you want to do next?" and ignite the confidence that comes with asking.

"Politics" is put in a box.  It is confined to certain places at certain times to discuss certain topics.  But at the end of the day, politics is anything accomplished by the many; by the "we".  If any one politician tells you that they are going to make great change as an individual, they have let their optimism run away from them.  But "we" can.  If "your liberation is bound up with mine..."  And when you encourage that level of optimism, when you overcome the cynics, then you make change.

Don't let anyone tell you what is possible in politics.  What do you want to do next?

Have a great Tuesday doing what you love!