Friday, June 17, 2011

Being at the table

Politics is pretty simple. If you are not at the table, you’re on the menu.

In the world of politics, those who want to be at the table—the place where the government divvies up the economic pie—need to bring something that those who are already at the table can count, like money or people. It would be great if having a good idea was enough to get there, but ideas don’t really win elections. Money and votes do.

It’s a lousy idea to give tax breaks to oil companies, but oil company money can be counted. The Tea Partyers collect Social Security while telling hard-working kids, who seldom vote and even more seldom organize others, that they will have to settle for little or nothing. Guess who votes; guess who organizes; guess who is at the table?

Politicians know which groups don’t vote. Young adults, the poor, anyone else who can always come up with an excuse about why they didn’t make it to the polls. But unless they organize, unless they vote, their interests will be ignored by those already at the table

Those who represent largely minority or poor districts watch as the concerns of others rise to the top of the priority list. Year in and year out, their constituents get only the “We will do better by next year, we promise” speech, knowing that next year will be much the same.

So it is simple enough. If you don’t vote, you don’t matter. If you do vote, and importantly, if you get others to vote with you, you can get to the table, choose from the menu, and maybe keep promises.

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