The Joy of Politics

It's been a while since I wrote my first column under this tab, a column in which I set out my interpretation of politics and who, in a democracy, are the actual politicians. "The place is run," I said, "by the people who show up."

My convictions on that point were more than held up by seeing Steven Spielberg's new film Lincoln. I loved it so much I've seen it twice. I'll probably buy my own copy. Maybe that's how I'll celebrate President's Day. A ritual watching of that film. To remind me of what politics are all about, of how they work, of why (channeling George C. Scott in Patton) God help me I do love it so.

Recently, Bill Moyers sat down with Tony Kushner, who wrote the screenplay for Lincoln, and had a wonderful conversation about the realities of presidential politics. Moyers asked Kushner how he felt about President Obama's reluctance to say, for almost four years, that he would support same-sex marriage. Kushner, a gay, married man, said he got it. He totally understood. You don't get elected as the first black president and immediately come out for something like gay marriage. You wait for the country to catch up with the idea. You do it when it will have the most impact, the most positive impact. You do it when it won't take over the conversation that you need to have on other issues.

I would say the same thing about things like drone strikes and warrantless wiretaps. As the first black president, you do not take a chance with the safety of the country on your watch. As a black president who has been, by some, branded as a Muslim, you cannot afford to seem to be soft on terrorism. You simply can't do it. I understand that. What I hope is that now, re-elected, he can make some readjustments.

Drone strikes may have to stay on the back burner though. What has finally come front and center is the issue of gun control. There has never been a better time to have that fight - and it will be a fight. I can see the clouds forming on the horizon as I type. But I think this is a fight that, like the ACA, he will fight and win. In order for him to do so, he needs us - he needs all of us little politicians out here "making him do it." As someone pointed out on some show or another, the 2008 motto was not "Yes, *I* can." It was "Yes, *We* can." And if *we* can get a sane gun policy in place in this country, we will be in an excellent place to extend that to our foreign policy as well. We can bring the drones back to the hive.

Toward the end, Moyers asked Kushner why he was so entranced with politics. I could pound out words all afternoon and never come up with a better answer than this one:

I think that, you know, all of the various fields of human inquiry -- theology and philosophy and morality and psychology meet rather beautifully in politics. And sometimes I wonder if politics isn't exactly that, it's the taking of all the sort of great ineffable and trying to make them have some meaning in the actually historical moment on earth in which we live.