Inside the Capitol

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

5-20 Just a Game

Syndicated Columnist

SANTA FE � Don't let politics get you down -- or your blood pressure up. An interest in politics and a desire to see that our country has good government is what we wish from every American. Many blow it off, but some take the game far too seriously.
And that's what politics is -- a game. It's a contest between competing interest groups to influence and control government. Both major political parties merely talk about policy. They have platforms they don't follow. And neither do their candidates.
Many Americans treat party philosophy as sacred, but there is nothing sacred about it. Our major political parties do what it takes to win.
And if that requires skirting around the party's "sacred principles" of local control, individual rights, government intervention, looking out for the little guy, the sanctity of life or any number of other platform tenets, it is done with no remorse.
Party philosophy is not pure. The closest I have found to any philosophical consistency is libertarianism, but the profound lack of success of the Libertarian Party is ample proof that philosophical purity doesn't even get you in the game.
So quit thinking about your political party as if it were a religion. Religions have deep thinkers working hard to maintain church doctrine. Political parties have high-powered strategists and tacticians working hard to shape party positions into formulas for victory.
Political maneuvering is just as flexible and changeable as political philosophies. When a politician switches political parties, it proves to one side which party is best while the other party condemns the action as something that never should be done.
When a party takes over both the executive and legislative branches of government and decides to redistrict congressional seats halfway through a decade, the victors spin it as doing what voters mandated and the party that lost control calls it a violation of every principle in the book?
Texas Democrats and New Mexico Republicans used each other's arguments in 2003 without the least bit of shame.
The majority party always tries to trample the minority no matter which party is in power. And the minority always uses any means available to stop it from happening. The majority calls its ideas progressive and says the minority is obstructionist. The minority counters that its longstanding rights are being violated.
I have been thinking about the need for this column ever since I wrote about the strong feelings being generated by the Republican effort to head off Democrat filibusters aimed at blocking President Bush's nominations of judges.
The issue spawned strong emotions created by polarizing rhetoric from both parties. My column attempted to note that the situation wasn't as unique as party spinmeisters on either side were portraying it and that a little cooperation would solve the problem.
But even that column drew strong emotions. Despite my effort to be conciliatory, a larger-than-usual volume of reader responses accused me of being right-wing, left-wing, a propagandist and a liar.
That's when I realized Dr. Valium needed to step in and calm things down. This isn't an end-of-the-world matter, folks. Republicans blocked many of President Clinton's judicial appointments for years and Democrats have changed Senate rules to block Republican filibusters.
Party propagandists had to narrow both issues considerably to make them first-time-in-history events. Nevertheless, the sun will rise tomorrow. Neither party is as despicable as the opposition would have you believe.
It's just the way the system works. Both parties can deliver the same arguments with equal passion. They will stand by their inviolable principles -- until they don't fit a future argument. And then they will switch sides. And their loyal fans blindly follow.
No wonder politics is one of two subjects couples remind each other not to talk about in polite company. It just ain't worth giving Uncle Charlie a coronary.
Remember, it's just a game.
FRI, 5-20-05

JAY MILLER, 3 La Tusa, Santa Fe, NM 87505
(ph) 982-2723, (fax) 984-0982, (e-mail)



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