Why Do We Do This?

(AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

When thinking about politics I am often drawn into its many facets. The strategy, the culture wars, the polling and the policy. But every so often I must bring myself back down to earth. Return to my roots as it were, and remind myself why I wanted to be engaged in politics in the first place.


It wasn’t to strategize, predict and campaign. These are all relevant activities. By-products of the core aims and beliefs I have. Often these beliefs, which are the driving force behind these activities can be lost in the fast-paced world of current affairs. So, this week’s column is a reminder to remind you; don’t forget why you got into politics or why you would like to be involved in politics. It’s in these moments that we seek achieve things for the sake of achieving them and not because we believe in them. Politics and the wielding of political power on various levels should come from a desire to create change for the better and not simply for the purposes of being powerful or being political.

The world right now is facing truly vast problems: the rise of authoritarianism, the collapse of our climate, the prospect of world hunger and the possibility of further global pandemics of greater threat to mortality. These are big problems that require big solutions from large numbers of people coming together. This is the time for vibrant, informed democracies, strong welfare states and a more environmentally sustainable approach to economics, global development and society. The present moment requires us to be pragmatic, nuanced and tolerant but it also requires us to be idealists, thinkers and activists. The two are not mutually exclusive.

This is the spirit of change-makers such as Franklin Roosevelt and Clement Attlee. Individuals who, in what seemed humanities darkest moment, built a more moral, more caring, fairer world in which peace and prosperity were the two great aims. They had to compromise. They had to be pragmatic. They had to work with those they disagreed with (Attlee worked in Churchill’s grand coalition). Ultimately these political instincts led to them achieving their goals and making the world a better place.

It’s an increasingly angry world where people refuse to work with those they disagree with, where intolerance rules the day and where we forget why we are political; we need to remember the type of world we want to achieve and, most importantly, why. If we want to save the climate, if we want to cure disease, if we want to feed the world and if we want to live in diverse and fair societies then we have to remember why we do this? We must be willing to be pragmatic idealists who compromise and work with counterparts in order to put those ideas into practice. Change isn’t a puritanical endeavour and it’s not driven by those who’s conception of politics is a void inhabited only by the primordial instinct of power for power’s sake. Don’t forget that utopia you dream of building because it’s the greatest driver of change the world has ever seen and it’s what gets to the heart of what it means to be political.

Daniel is a political activist and Senior Associate Editor of Liberal Base. His interests are in populism, democratic crisis, western party politics and automation. He tweets @danny_hod and blogs at dannyhodson.com