Politics is always a serious business. Sometimes it’s scary—just ask the opposition in Iran, the warring soldiers in Ukraine, or the targets of bigotry in the United States. Even when lives are not at stake, politics has all kinds of important consequences, from the development of our environment, to the provision of health care, to the policies that shape the economy, to the possibility of a secure retirement.
But politics is not just about who gets what. It can also be funny and sometimes deep.
I’ll start with fun. There are nearly half a million elected officials in the United States who run for office throughout the election cycle. With so many people participating in the political system, some are bound to be fools.
Politicians and politicians are always a source of humor or public interest, and our work includes drawing attention to the consequences of political action.
At Thanksgiving, whether we smile with them or laugh together, I express my gratitude for the relief. About Bernie Sanders and his gloves at President Joe Biden’s inauguration. To Senator Ted Cruz for fleeing to Cancun during the Texas power crisis.
But it’s reassuring to know that extreme behavior has real and dire consequences for the country. It can be funny when an obscure state legislator says he lost the election because a dead foreign dictator rigged the election machine. When a similar claim is made by a lawyer representing the President of the United States, it is not ridiculous.
I have not celebrated the fun side of politics in recent years with so many political actors trying to undermine our democracy, and I will not do so this year.
But I will never hesitate to celebrate what political philosopher Hannah Arendt calls “the public happiness.” Drawing on the wisdom of our founding fathers, Arendt believes that we enjoy some form of participation in collective self-governance. People enter politics for various reasons and it is a personal matter. But many have found that working with others for a public cause (even if the end goal is personal gain) leads to a joy that can’t be found anywhere else.
Indeed, the Declaration of Independence’s famous appeal to the right to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” can be read as a right to derive personal benefit from public policy, or the right to the positive emotions involved. . Upholding the common good of society.
An inclusive and participatory republic is important not only because it provides a fair way to determine who gets what, but also because everyone deserves access to public happiness. Selfishness is bad not only because it leads to an arbitrary and unjust distribution of public benefits, but also because it is only the autocrat who cares about the people’s happiness.
Very happy, thank you all. And it’s a hope that political joy, funny and silly, can continue to spread to all who want it.For holiday and weekend reading, here are some great recent articles by political scientists:
• Julia Azari on Trump and the Republican Party.
• Feminism on Republicans, abortion and the middle class.
• Bloomberg’s David A. Hopkins suggests what Republicans should learn from the midterms.
• Dan Drezner on the medium term and foreign policy.
• Bethany Lacina, Nicholas Karnes and Lily J. Goren on Wakanda and Awakening Marvel at The Washington Post’s Monkey House.
This column does not necessarily represent the views of the publishers or Bloomberg LP and its owners.
Jonathan Bernstein is a Bloomberg columnist who covers politics and policy. A former professor of political science at the University of Texas at San Antonio and DePauw University, he writes about politics for the Plain Blog.
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