Two different people people asked my opinion last week about the importance of politics. I had an instinctive answer, but I haven’t been sure exactly how to explain my feelings. A phone conversation I just had clarified it for me.
I’ve spent a disproportionate amount of my life working around politics. In the beginning, it was simply fascinating, but before long, I was being paid to give other people advice and produce advertising for them. I’ve spent countless hours, weeks and even years pouring my thoughts and effort into campaigns. Other than the money I’ve made to support myself along the way, has any of it mattered?
About 90 minutes or so ago, I had something I needed to get written. I was working on a deadline, and I was scouring the various political ideas I have, trying to decide what was important. Then I got a phone call from someone I didn’t expect to hear from. I spent most of the time I should be writing talking on the phone instead.
When I die, am I more likely to remember that phone call or who won a gubernatorial campaign I worked hard on in 1998?
You might think it’s a silly question. Obviously a race for governor affects millions of people. It’s important. It’s political. All the books say that it matters. Right?
That is what the books and the talking heads say. They tell us that elections matter. They tell us it matters which party controls an office or a legislature. As I sit here thinking about the phone call I just had, I think they’re all wrong. When I die, I’m still going to remember the phone call I just had. I’m not going to remember much about the political races I’ve been a part of.
People matter more than politics, but sometimes those of us who have grown accustomed to obsessing about politics forget that. We think it matters whether somebody said something about Herman Cain or where Barack Obama went for a vacation or what gaffe someone might have made when meeting the queen of England.
History books record those sorts of things. I guess they’re interesting trivia. But the truth is that people are far more important. Who you love and who you care deeply about will always matter more, even if history books don’t record those details — and even if we’re sometimes not bright enough to recognize what’s most important until after we’ve wasted a lot of time.
I’m going to keep talking about politics, simply because it’s a path to get people to thinking about giving up on politics and finding ways to escape the bondage of the coercive state. I do think that matters. But if I have a choice between working on politics and talking to someone I really need and want to talk with — someone I care deeply about — the human being and the emotions are going to win.
I know what my priorities are. I haven’t always known the answer to that. I do now. I finally have enough wisdom and maturity to put people ahead of political power. Even if you’re a “political animal,” I hope you’ll think about your priorities and see if it’s time to change them.
So for the person who called and caused me to think about this issue of priorities in the last few minutes, thank you.