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Monday, July 18, 2011

The Story of Who We Are

Via Steve Benen over at Political Animal I see that the White House has been circulating a video of President Obama speaking with some college students in Massachusetts. In trying to explain the nature of politics to them, Obama said the following:

[O]ne of the challenges of this generation is, I think, to understand that the nature of our democracy and the nature of our politics is to marry principle to a political process. That means you don't get 100% of what you want. You don't get it if you are the majority; you don't get it if you are in the minority. And you can be an honorable [person] in politics understanding that you are not going to get 100% of what you want.

One of the reasons I like this statement is because it implicitly clarifies the respective, and different, roles that are supposed to be played by politicians and advocates. The mere fact that you can never get 100% of what you want doesn't mean that you stop advocating for it. It just means that you have to recognize that -- in any particular political battle -- you won't realize it.

And that is fine. It is the job of the politician to compromise with the other side and obtain for you the most he can get that you want, whilst giving up the least that you are willing to sacrifice. But it is the job of us, the advocates, to continue to press for our desires and try and re-work our society to make it better fit the image we have of what it should be.

Above all, it is our job to try and remember that what we call "the political process" is precisely that: a process. It is always ongoing, it is always changing, it is always evolving. It never, ever stops.

Arguing with each other over societal policies and prescriptions is nothing less than the never-ending story we tell each other about who and what we are as a people. And if you want your narrative to carry the day, you can't stop talking.

1 comment:

  1. The Story of America is the story we write, the story we believe, the story we tell our children and their children. It is the world as we would have it. There will be other voices with other stories. That's fine. It is the poetry and the humanity in all the combined stories that endure.

    We don't get all we'd like so the other guy can have some of what he wants too. Only fair. And it prevents bloodshed.

    It is a messy business, this democracy thing. We are the authors of dreams and dreams light the way forward.

    It is an extremely messy political system we have right now. Perhaps it has always been so. But look at the gains it has given us.

    Dare any do better?