“I hate politics. I don’t understand Congress. And I have no idea about who to vote for in the election.” That’s what I used to say until the political gene turned on in my late 30’s.
For me, politics was boring and nobody cared. Congress was just a bunch of guys in Washington and they were going to do whatever they wanted to anyway. Besides it didn’t affect me.
So my position was I’d just vote for the candidate who seemed like a rock star and had the best curb appeal. The media and the Party would make sure I picked the right one.
But in 1990 I started a new job working in Governmental Affairs at MCA/Universal and things changed. On a daily basis, we were dealing with public policy issues and I soon realized there were three words I had left out of my former simple political assessment; issues, resources and outcomes.
So if you plug these three words in, the formula suddenly changes.
Politics isn’t boring. It’s about issues.
Congress isn’t a bunch of faceless people. It’s a machine for allocating resources and setting the rules. And elections aren’t about celebrity stardom. Elections have outcomes.
Once I understood that the election altered resource allocation and this affected the actual issues in my life, it became clear that Washington policy decisions transform the political arena from a boring collection of stuffy politicians into a rich landscape of diverse human opinions struggling with complex problems and many constituents.
Why did MCA think politics was important?
According to the L.A. Times, “It was (Lew) Wasserman’s bitter experience with that deal (consent decree of 1959) that made him realize the importance of political clout, causing him to become a voracious fund-raiser and student of the political scene.”
I must have picked up on this in the time we were in his office talking about our PAC.
When I was at MCA I realized the company had issues but I did not. The company had resources while I had few. MCA/Universal desired legislative outcomes that would continue to protect and enhance their resources. Think copyright protection, anti-piracy for music and film, union issues etc. For the company, elections were about supporting the politicians aligned with their issues.
So we remained very close to world leaders, Congress and every administration since the Kennedy administration.
You might say that large corporations have political interests they want to protect. And that’s exactly right. But so do small businesses and individuals. So why are we so much less involved?
For individuals, I think one key factor is a lack of resources. In a way this goes back to the same political gene I mentioned earlier. Until you have something at stake, you don’t really care. When you get married or you have children or you start a small business or lose a division of your company, then you start paying attention.
Big companies are paying attention all the time. That’s why they have a dominant influence in Congress and they hire lobbyists to represent them. They have the discretionary resources (time, money and staff) to allocate, focus their concerns and protect their interests.
We shouldn’t blame them for that. Otherwise we might not have the rich diversity of products and services we use everyday at a price we are accustomed to.
Yet, as individuals we believe we do not have sufficient resources. Therefore we don’t engage in politics. We also mistakenly think the system is so corrupt or ineffective there is nothing we can do.
So we resign ourselves to play a simple role. We vote in the general election because it requires the least effort on our part. Strange.
We do the least and expect the most, yet we condemn those who succeed. Still we won’t take part in the political arena.
But if we could find a way to simplify politics, understand the issues that affect us and muster collective resources, we might want to claim a bigger part in the game. We would have some control, autonomy and capacity because that’s what we need.
That’s what grassroots politics is all about. But somehow even that sounds boring. Why? Because it doesn’t deal with “My Issue“. So what is my issue?
First, we need to ask how does this legislation affect me? And the answer is not “It doesn’t.”
The interesting thing is that while you may not care about politics, other people do. Your silence and non-participation mean that other people will decide how things go in your life. So if you like to be told what to do and how to live your life, then sit back and enjoy the bumpy, frustrating ride.
Ignore the issues, keep voting for the same incumbent politicians, never measure their performance, don’t involve yourself in any issues you care about and do not connect the dots.
Apathy begets apathy.
Indolence begets indolence. And ignorance begets ignorance.
Stop paying attention for another few election cycles and in 10 years you won’t recognize who you are or what country you are living in.
Then ask yourself again. Is politics still boring?
 Bates, J. (2002, June 04). The Hollywood Mogul and Kingmaker Dies at 89 LEW R. WASSERMAN: 1913 – 2002 Legacy: As MCA chief, his behind-the-scenes clout guided an industry and extended to politics. Retrieved from Los Angeles Times.