An important and scathing article

January 21, 2020 at 8:37 pm (By Amba) ()

about doing politics vs. just talking about it. Point taken. Shut up and deal.

In reality, political hobbyists have harmed American democracy and would do better by redirecting their political energy toward serving the material and emotional needs of their neighbors. . . .

[C]ollege-educated people, especially college-educated white people, do politics as hobbyists because they can. On the political left, they may say they fear President Donald Trump. They may lament polarization. But they are pretty comfortable with the status quo. . . .

Our . . . treatment of politics as a sport incentivizes politicians to behave badly. We reward them with attention and money for any red meat they throw us…Rather than practic[e] patience and empathy [as organizers must], hobbyists cultivate outrage & seek instant gratification. . . .

[The Democratic Party harbors] “a tension between those who…seek empowerment and those who have enough power that politics is more about self-gratification than fighting for anything. Only if you don’t need more power . . . could you possibly consider politics a form of consumption from the couch.”

Of course many of us political couch potatoes are riveted to the news not for entertainment and outrage, but out of anxiety. But the remedy for anxiety is action—on behalf of the people we purport to care about who will be hurt worse than us.


  1. tom strong said,

    I liked this article a lot, and it was a helpful kick in the pants for me to start doing some stuff again. But: I really think he does his argument no favors in trying to turn it into a demographic exercise. It’s entirely possible to be what he calls a “hobbyist,” and also take meaningful action or make smart donations. Because part of being such a hobbyist is trying to understand the world enough so that our actions help and do not harm.

  2. amba12 said,

    Good point. My first reaction was “Hurts so good” (from The King and I: “Give us a kick if you please, your majesty!”) and then I thought wait a minute, penitential masochism is another indulgence that is not action.

    And yes, researched, well-placed donation is a form of action (if not “speech”), and can fund activists as your proxies in places where you can’t be. So it’s not so black-and-white.

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