Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Politicians vs. Bloggers

After reading Jonathan Chait's posts on Howard Dean I was thinking an interesting post would be how the kinds of things that tend to make someone a successful politician differ from the kinds of things that tend to make someone a successful blogger, like Chait -- and the very different kinds of people that tend to go into each.

One really common way to increase your odds of success as a politician is to be kind of a weasel, or a huge weasel. There are exceptions; you can be very successful through great charisma and competence (Elizabeth Warren), but few people have that kind of charisma and competence.

Note, however, what true weaselness is: Sometimes looking like a weasel is actually doing what you think is best for the country – You support, or go along with, something bad in exchange for helping some greater good get done. Any good politician should do this sometimes, and to some extent. It's unavoidable if you want to optimize the good of 300 million Americans and 7 billion human beings. But the weasels will do this not for the greater good, but for more personal power, prestige, and/or money.

And politicians tend to be people who will go to incredible lengths, often unethical, often that they know really hurt the country and the world, for power and prestige (although there's an argument that women politicians are much less like this [1]). John McCain is a prime example; it's all about him and what he wants, and his personal vendettas, rather than 300 million Americans and 7 billion human beings.

As a blogger, however, there's very rarely big bucks and prestige among the general public. You do it largely because you care, rather than a super drive to win and have power. And you better be smart and do your homework, because your derp, or mistakes, are often immediately attacked by people who largely determine how respected and influential you are. And your audience is way more informed than the average, so you just can't get away with politicians tricks nearly as well.

Of course, I'm not speaking of conservative bloggers, who primarily speak to a bizarro tribal world, and say what their super-rich patrons want them to say.


[1] From the New York Times, 6/11/11:
Research points to a substantial gender gap in the way women and men approach running for office. Women have different reasons for running, are more reluctant to do so and, because there are so few of them in politics, are acutely aware of the scrutiny they draw — all of which seems to lead to differences in the way they handle their jobs once elected.

“The shorthand of it is that women run for office to do something, and men run for office to be somebody,” said Debbie Walsh, director of the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University. “Women run because there is some public issue that they care about, some change they want to make, some issue that is a priority for them, and men tend to run for office because they see this as a career path.”