Political Hobbyists

Really interesting article in the Atlantic about college educated people ruining politics.

Unlike organizers such as Matias, the political hobbyists are disproportionately college-educated white men. They learn about and talk about big important things. Their style of politics is a parlor game in which they debate the issues on their abstract merits. Media commentators and good-government reform groups have generally regarded this as a cleaner, more evolved, less self-interested version of politics compared with the kind of politics that Matias practices.

I disagree they are mostly college educated white men. There’s plenty of gender equality here. I was raised by parents who were very involved in their community. They were not political activists, but political involvement flows naturally from community involvement. While I’ve certainly been guilty of treating politics like sports (though, I hate all the teams), there’s a certain superficiality about it that’s described here that annoys me.

I’ll leave the reader to ponder the irony of decrying people talking politics to death on a politically oriented blog :)

9 thoughts on “Political Hobbyists”

  1. Tldr, more meat space engagement, less hashtag activism?

    Maybe that can be gleaned from the article as a learning, but that is definitely not what I understood as the point the article was trying to make.

      1. I think your analysis is right. The author seems disappointed that the wrong people aren’t properly engaged — and would be dismayed if, say, gun rights activists read the article and decided to fix their behavior — but it’s always something we should be asking ourselves: “Can we organize better?”.

        Having said that, if you’re going to volunteer to go door to door, you need doors to knock, and not all of us can be the door-knockers. I would suspect that a crucial role of the door-knocker would be to seek out the hashtag activist and remind them of the importance to go out and vote….

        1. “Can we organize better?”

          Sorry for the cynicism, but I’ll guess “no.”

          You may have noticed most of my Old Stories involve infiltration or deflection by people with ulterior motives. Long ago the RKBA movement got a chalk-mark on it that means “suckers” for every passing grifter. Their motives may be, simple economic profit, or raw pursuit of votes and political power only thinly related to the RKBA cause, or, advancement of another cause using the resources of the RKBA movement.

          You may have noticed that any time someone advocates for the purity of “single issue,” someone else will come back lauding the virtues of “coalition building.” That means, use your resources to advance our issues, elect our candidates, and maybe we will say some nice stuff about your [RKBA] issue, someday.

          All “ideologies” have their versions of “community organizers” and all of them are equally cynical about advancing their own agendas. But, they are skilled at what they do. If a good “organizer” comes forward, he/she will almost always be a political operative with an agenda separate from the RKBA.

          Reference my Old Stories about the Christian Coalition guy we made chairman of the Keystone Firearms Coalition (because he seemed a good “organizer”), who did nothing but lobby us to expand to “other” issues than the RKBA, until his wife outed him as having no interest in guns; and our 1994 mega-“gun rights” rally in Harrisburg that got us to use our own resources to attend a campaign rally for the 1994 “Republican Revolution.” That was certainly well-organized, but could never be replicated in future years.

          1. I didn’t express this in my previous comment, but I should have, and I think I intended to:

            One of the things I wonder about with regards to the lament in the essay Sebastian linked to is to what degree the guy is complaining about something that always was, always is, and always will be — because it’s human nature.

            And, as you illustrate by your anecdotes, I can’t help but wonder how much *every* cause is gutted, at least somewhat, by political grifters who are cynically using as many dupes as they could find to advance their own political careers….

  2. For all of its parsing of demographics, what I heard in that article was, most people go into “activism” not knowing their asses from their elbows, incredibly naive and believing whatever they were taught in their generation’s equivalent of Civics Class. It’s not clear to me what college education has to do with anything, except that we who are, are most easily convinced that we’re smart for memorizing and regurgitating what we are being told. We generally have been rewarded for that through the proverbial “twenty years of schoolin'”

    That said, and contrary to popular/populist mythology, I have a theory that my own Baby Boom generation was specially targeted by the right for exploitation, but after we got out of college. Those of us who were often “first in the family to finish college” were especially vulnerable to being told how smart we were, and challenged to see how far we could take things now that we had achieved one incredible (to us and to our families) milestone. Then it took relatively little facilitation to keep us on a path that rewarded us and allowed us the illusion of progress, in return for being little more than useful idiots.

    I have addressed that to “the right” only because I have no experience on “the left.” I suppose I have no reason to believe things are any different, regardless of the faction.

  3. “I have addressed that to “the right” only because I have no experience on ‘the left.'”

    I wrapped up the above before I had intended to, because I had to suddenly run off and do other things.

    Since the 2016 election I have observed various efforts on the left that I know are not really intended to accomplish anything, but are being used to identify and vet new Democratic activists, i.e., to benefit the Democratic Party and not necessarily to advance the issues involved.

    I have told my Old Story before, how in 1988 I undertook a campaign to resist a Democrat-created and sponsored “tax reform” scheme. Almost immediately I was lured into deferring to a Republican front group supposedly created for the same purpose. Eventually the Republicans themselves implemented the state constitutional change they were supposed to be resisting at the time.

    I was a Libertarian at the time, but for several years afterward was heavily wooed by the Republicans, including appointment to a “prestigious” founding advisory board for a new statewide conservative organization, and persuasion to become a candidate for state office, which I declined to pursue. For the most part I recognized how spurious these things were, not too long after becoming involved with them. (I was already aware that the RP fielded “sacrificial” candidates, not intended to win, in many races.) I saw other ambitious Libertarians successfully lured in similar ways, and I’m aware of one who to this day remains a dependable Republican envelope-licker, probably always hopeful his day will come. Another of my acquaintances at the time became a Senior Fellow in a second-string “think tank,” in a field for which they had absolutely no qualifications or expertise.

    From what I can tell from a distance these days, the same things are going on with the Democrats, but they probably always were. Then as now, I was in no position to really know.

  4. I skimmed the article basically It is about those who like to argue and follow politics but not to do the hard work of organizing and trying to lobby our Government.
    It is the same as the problem in getting volunteers to handle the nitty gritty of neighborhood boards or running a gun club.
    That spirit of organizers that try to get goodies for their agenda or to get their ideas implemented in clubs they run is much the same.

    Since the 1970’s the leisure time has been reduced since women entered the work force. So the pool of volunteers has been reduced. Now it is mostly retired people that have the time to run committees yet they they lack the energy of young people

  5. My multiple posts will surely piss off a lot of people, but consider this my Sunday Sermon:

    I started thinking about this when it came out that Parnas and Fruman had recorded an entire Trump meeting, from which the “Take her out” bit is now being widely played.

    True political professionals know to get as much dirt on their allies as they can; more so than on their enemies of the moment. The reason being, everyone who is professional at it knows that usually the current nominal agenda isn’t the real agenda at all, and that everyone in the game is pursuing their own self-interest or the interests of their factions. So, today’s ally is highly likely to become tomorrow’s enemy, and vice-versa. If you don’t have the stomach for searching for dirt on your friends, you will never be a professional and you’ll remain nothing but a useful idiot for the “allied” faction you believe in.

    I never could do that, and to the last believed that the stated agenda was really the agenda. So, I could never progress beyond useful idiot. When I learned how things really worked I could only walk away.

    Earlier I recalled being invited to membership in a prestigious statewide “conservative” organization. I would attend the monthly meetings in Harrisburg (in the offices of yet another prestigious organization), and report things like “I’ve been lobbying our local paper’s editorial board on [economic conservative] ‘Issue A’ and they’ve come around a lot, as evidenced by this editorial.” Such reports would be greeted by, “Why, thank you for sharing that Andy, but what have you been doing to promote Senator Buttphuque’s ‘Issue B’ bill?” It only took me a handful of months to stop driving to Harrisburg (on my own dime) to give my useful idiot’s reports. But it never occurred to me to record the meetings, because after all, those people were “allies”, weren’t they? (I didn’t even record the “secret” NRA meeting I attended; which I regret because I would love to have a recording of Tanya Metaksa calling me “obnoxious.”)

    In gun rights activism I unintentionally acquired dirt on some of my associates, but that was always accidental, e.g., something they would day to me on the telephone, and I never recorded phone calls. It was usually of the nature of, learning that they were lying about something they were saying in public. At the time I would keep it to myself, and not talk about it until years later, so as not to create dissension within “The Movement.”

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