Every political activist has, at some time, asked why they bother. Friends and family often can’t understand it. Often we can’t understand it ourselves. The crisis of politics, which I’ve written about before on these pages, is huge – arguably more serious, and bigger, than the financial crisis. It spans continents and infects the political and social environment of many major democracies. Barack Obama will never have to stand for election again, but in his acceptance speech, he gave a fantastic and concise explanation of why politics matters. This will (probably) be the last mention of Obama on these pages today – but it’s a good onem I promise. Here’s the quote:
”I know that political campaigns can sometimes seem small, even silly. And that provides plenty of fodder for the cynics who tell us that politics is nothing more than a contest of egos or the domain of special interests. But if you ever get the chance to talk to folks who turned out at our rallies and crowded along a rope line in a high school gym or – or saw folks working late at a campaign office in some tiny county far away from home, you’ll discover something else.
You’ll hear the determination in the voice of a young field organiser who’s working his way through college and wants to make sure every child has that same opportunity. You’ll hear the pride in the voice of a volunteer who’s going door to door because her brother was finally hired when the local auto plant added another shift.
You’ll hear the deep patriotism in the voice of a military spouse who’s working the phones late at night to make sure that no one who fights for this country ever has to fight for a job or a roof over their head when they come home.
That’s why we do this. That’s what politics can be. That’s why elections matter.”
That should ring true to anyone who has ever worked on the campaign. Or to put it another way:
“Some may belittle politics but we who are engaged in it know that it is where people stand tall. Although I know that it has many harsh contentions, it is still the arena that sets the heart beating a little faster. If it is, on occasions, the place of low skulduggery, it is more often the place for the pursuit of noble causes.”