1. Politics

What Is Politics and Why Is It Important? According to 4 Experts

Politics has gone through different stages throughout history, yet up to the present times, it has continued to be a topic of debate.

Before we delve deeper into its complexities, we need to understand what politics is and why it is important.

Find out how these four experts define politics and view its importance in various ways.

Dr. J Paul Rand, MBA, CPCN

J Paul Rand

Executive Director, RSolutions (Holdings)

Politics is the art and science of governance

Politics, the art and science of activities related to governing nations, groups, or organizations, is one of those terms we all claim to avoid, yet invariably, it impacts everyone.

When I was 19, I became the youngest elected official in Washington State history. While I completed a four-year tenure in a non-partisan municipal role, I moved into learning, education, and organizational sciences as a performance psychologist for a number of years thereafter.

Most recently, however, due to my research and experience, I was nominated and selected as a non-partisan Regional White House Fellow. I have enjoyed non-partisan roles but use this to highlight that politics is always present: from cities to non-profits, family business, to major corporations, to national politics.

Politics is the application of human ideals into a lived reality, which is complicated.

Politics (and religion) are the conventional “do not discuss” topics for family and friends, but that is really a poor decision if you consider that politics is a natural occurrence of governance of the people.

When we define politics (as drama or contest), we often allow surface reactions of issues, topics, and concerns to devalue a very intentional and unique opportunity to be involved, aware and participate in a free governing society, the alternate – politics-free oligarchy or dictatorship that usurps freedom of involvement.

In these environments, your rights are to live and do what you are told, as told. Ending such tyranny has been a fight many of our kin – inside and outside of the US – have battled for hundreds of years.

So why, then, do people avoid politics?

Politics, for many, can feel or appear to be a game, when in reality, it is a process for moving from an ideal of governance – of the people, by the people, for the people – toward practical application. Politics becomes visible one might say as we shift to achieve ideals and encounter the fundamental reality that while we may share many many commonalities (biologically, physically, mentally/emotionally, etc.) as people, we are fundamentally and entirely dynamic and unique individuals.

When we find the ability to recognize that politics is the necessary process of managing those differences while focusing on the shared ideal of a particular party to achieve the desired ideal, we can learn to recognize politics is a natural occurrence for finding unity amid complex ambiguity of the people, by the people, for the people.

Politics shapes governance when ideal becomes a focused law of governance to bind the people

The less familiar you are with politics, the less clarity on governance you will have. In this case, the less familiar you are with the complexities that shape your environment, influence you, your children, and your community, and the more susceptible to tyranny of the minority – a fast track to losing your rights.

Being aware of politics and understanding the role of politics in everyday life is important to developing your personal character and valuing important issues

But it’s not about not getting caught in the weeds of political banter or dissent, but to instead participate in the true examination of your deeply held person ideals, values, and how fair those ideals are in the governance of all others.

David Pring-Mill

David Pring-Mill

Media Consultant | Writer | Communications Director, Hyperloop Advanced Research Partnership

Politics is an arena of power

Politics is the arena in which power can be won or lost, leveraged, or squandered, either toward illuminated ends or corruptive impulses and indifference. Politicians can advance themselves by understanding and navigating relations between people, and their actions influence the distribution of social goods among people. But everything is quickly changing.

With our communication and economic activities so profoundly altered by technology, the metaphorical machinery of representative democracy is now increasingly rested upon literal machinery.

Disinformation has found faster pathways of travel, on platforms with skewed incentives. Our election infrastructure is hackable. AI programs are learning quickly, sometimes from biased and incomplete datasets. Ultimately beneficial types of automation may be preceded by painful transitions.

Dramatic, unfathomable advances in quantum computing could make current systems irrelevant. The future is dependent not only on innovation but on the successful integration of new solutions into complex systems.

Related: How to Find Simple Solutions to Complex Problems

To understand politics in 2019, it’s worth taking a very close look at technology.

Different business models incentivize different tactics. Lawmakers are looking to crack down on a digital Wild West that increasingly trades in personal data.

The venture capital pouring into Silicon Valley startups sometimes establishes an underlying imperative for growth that works against responsible product development. In the pursuit of scalability, social values are sometimes compromised, and systemic vulnerabilities are created.

Fortunately, we’re also seeing a lot of opportunities for independent, cash-strapped entrepreneurs. Some of the old barriers to entry no longer exist. To the contrary, there are more resources, in terms of not only capital but also the growing supply of B2B tools and services.

This is significant. John Adams felt compelled to study politics and war so that his sons would have the liberty to study mathematics, philosophy, and practical sciences, so that their children, in turn, could freely study art and creative disciplines that enhance the textures of living.

If politics is, from one Founding Father’s perspective, a thing that is done to extend liberty more widely, then technology is clearly political in that it serves as a source of empowerment for entrepreneurship and expression. New technology allows for a highly individual and defiant form of each.

We must all actively work to ensure that technology continues to align with our own liberty because it is, in many instances, becoming more adept at facilitating division and censorship.

The United States of America was premised upon the right of the people to make and to alter their own government, instead of being subservient to an unjust power imposed upon them. And now we, as consumers, are looking toward increasingly powerful and global corporate structures and wondering what rights we have there.

It is fair, I think, to say that citizenship rights and consumer rights are becoming equated, in some respects. We can affect change by voting with our dollars and approaching commerce from a more organized and intentional perspective.

Paul Engel

Paul Engel

Author | Speaker | Founder, The Constitution Study

Politics is the art or science of government

In short, politics is the art or science of government. Put another way, how we establish policy, which is also why it is important.

How do we determine what policy will be?

For centuries, a policy was established by a monarch, one person who determined what the nation’s policy would be. While there were different systems of politics such as Ancient Greece and Roman republics, even British politics changed from a pure monarchy to a more limited system with the Magna Carta in 1215 and the Grand Remonstrance of 1641.

In the 18th Century, there were two great attempts to change political systems, the American and French Revolutions. The American Revolution created the republic we call The United States of America, while the French Revolution created a democracy.

While the United States Constitution, drafted and ratified in 1787, remains the longest single national Constitution in the world, the French democracy included the Reign of Terror. It eventually led to the rise of Napoleon Bonaparte.

The most important question Americans have today is who will have control of our republic?

Will it be the American people or a powerful political class? Will the republic be governed by its Constitution or by a group of politicians and justices? Who will determine the policies the American people will live under, a ruling class in Washington, or the American people themselves?

Related: What Is the Purpose of the Constitution?

The answer to this question is currently up for debate, which is why it is important. If the American people do not hold their elected representatives accountable for their actions, then we will be ruled by them and a republic in name only.

Jacquelyn Benson

Jacquelyn Benson

Civic Engagement Coordinator, Citizens Count

These days, politics gets a bad rap. It’s not hard to see why in an era of increasing partisanship and deepening suspicion of government institutions. That makes it easy to forget that politics is the necessary partner of democracy.

When people are given the power to make decisions about government policies or to choose their representatives, efforts will always be made to try to win them over. And that’s great. None of us have the time to conduct original research into every issue that impacts our lives. We have to rely on others to do some of that homework for us.

Our role then becomes choosing our sources. Who will we trust to tell us the right path on a given issue? For those of us who are working to strengthen democratic institutions, the enemy isn’t “politics” – it’s the decay of the critical faculties we use to judge who is worth listening to.