Charlie Harper: Brought to you by the letter P

October 22, 2013 

Politics: It is the Process by which we the People decide how we will exert control over one another. As government expands, we the people grow more and more dependent on the political process. It's what we discuss in this space weekly. To some it's just a game. To others it's a spectator's sport. Regardless how it is viewed and what level it is participated, it is how we end up with …

Policy: In theory, policy is why we have politics. It's what we want the government to do (or not do) based on the wishes of the general public and balanced against the rights of individuals affected. But that's just a theory. These days, our public arguments seem to be about anything but policy. Too often, they're devoid of substance, and based too much on Personality.

Party: There was a time when our founding fathers debated policy on merits, with the sides taken changing from argument to argument. Over time, alliances formed and eventually we devolved into political parties. While initially a good way to help identify a brand associated with policy and a slate of candidates, it seems that over time, Party has become more important than Policy, with views on policy changing based on which Personality in which Party is making the proposal.

Principle: To keep a party from totally drifting with the political winds, it must be rooted in principle. Principles give a political party its soul. It is the guidepost that helps us distinguish from making a good deal from a bad one.

Power: Power is now the goal of the parties, and maintaining or achieving power in a two-party system too often trumps both policy and principle. It is quite easy to tell oneself that a vote or decision may go against principle in the short run but so long as power is maintained it is for the greater good. Likewise, bad policy is often good politics, and both parties are more than willing to sign on to bad policy if even in only the very short term it appears to be good politics and helps maintain power just a little longer.

Pragmatism: There are times when folks who prefer something to nothing must decide if we are better off in enacting part of a policy or moving toward a goal rather than achieving everything in one giant step. Most people call them pragmatists. Some people in the Republican Party instead call them RINOs. They are those that understand that the other side is winning by using pragmatic incrementalism, but instead believe in …

Purity: Is the belief in all or nothing. While most of us had the notion that we can always get all of everything we want sometime during kindergarten, there are those who still walk among us who espouse that we can. These are the same folks who believe if you have lost an election, removing people who don't agree with you from your party will help you get more votes in the next election. While the goal of putting principle above all else appears noble on the surface, the ability to ignore all evidence to the contrary when being told that principle can be enacted without some understanding of pragmatism leads to …

Petulance: This is the too common reaction from those who cannot offer a winning strategy to enact their principled policy. They begin to attack those who are trying to help them and their party for not being pure. No one wishes to associate with the petulant, as they are childish and defy logic. In politics, projecting petulance usually leads to problems with …

Polls: Polls are temporary snapshots of public opinion, but during an era of 24-hour news feeding the general public and narcissism fueling the unlimited ambition of the political class, polls matter. An essential part of any strategy to implement principled policy must account for messaging and how the public will react, even in the very short term, to polls. If there is no Plan, and the messengers driving the message appear petulant, there is only one world that will describe the short-term polls, and the likely result the next time the voters return to the real polls:

Poor: Those who fail to understand how the various P's of politics interconnect will likely never read a column that was sponsored by enough numbers to add up to more than fifty percent.

Charlie Harper, author and editor of the Peach Pundit blog, writes on Georgia politics and government; www.peachpundit.com.

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