Excuse me for a minute while I get pedantic… and a little ranty.
Not too long ago, I was listening to a political podcast, and they starting talking about the difference between policy and politics. And they talked about it this way: they said that representatives needed to do the right thing—choose the right policy—regardless of how the politics would play out. They made it sound like governing was one thing and politics was another. They made it sound like the politics of a moment was about how things would play out in the media, on the campaign trail, and in the voting booth.
And that’s wrong.
It’s become a truism that the media cover politics like it’s a horserace. They act as though the biggest question around any policy work—from a speech to a vote—is how it will affect the next election. And our current political moment is one result of that. We have a president and a political party who seem wholly unconcerned with how their actions will affect people, and almost entirely concerned with whether those actions make them look like their winning. But government isn’t about winning… it’s about helping people.
Or, at least, it should be.
Politics is the work of figuring out how we will live together. That work—and the policies that it produces—should be the focus of political coverage. The horserace is fun. But our country will be better if people know how policies are enacted and how they affect real people, not just whether one candidate or another moved ahead in the polls.