The business of politics
June 23, 2008 - Bill Ackerbauer
Readers of today's print edition may notice a short item about the Fulton County Republican Committee endorsing Jim Buhrmaster, R-Scotia, in his bid for Congress.
I bring this up here in my blog because the statement sent to us from the Buhrmaster campaign contained a bit of lame rhetoric that is one of my particular pet peeves. The statement quotes Fulton County Republican Chairman Dexter Risedorph as saying:
“Jim is a businessman, not a politician ..."
It's true that "businessman" is probably at the top of the list of things that Buhrmaster is. He's the top executive of the energy company that bears his name. But no matter what else he or she might be -- businessman, community activist, devoted churchgoer, dutiful civil servant or carnival machete juggler -- a person running for Congress is ipso facto a politician. And this run for Congress is not the guy's maiden voyage on the stormy, polluted seas of politics: He's a second-term Schenectady County legislator.
Mitt Romney used the same nonsense in his failed campaign for the GOP nomination for president:
"I believe it's essential to have someone go to Washington who knows how to solve problems and get the job done and who is not a politician," Romney said. "I don't think politicians can solve the problems we've got and get us on the right track again." (I found this quote here.)
Locally, George Amedore, R-Rotterdam, used the same argument when he was running for the state Assembly seat vacated by Paul Tonko:
“I’m more of a businessperson than a politician,” he told the Legislative Gazette.
At least in that interview, Amedore had the decency to use the construction "more of an X than a Y," as opposed to the less honest "Y, not an X."
I don't want to give the impression that I am necessarily anti-business (though I can be, depending on the alternative interests presented in a given situation). I also don't want to downplay the important role of business in society; I agree with Buhrmaster and others when they say government needs to reform and create a healthier environment for business in upstate New York.
My beef here is with the deceptive logic built into the frequent employment of the words "politics" and "politician" as slurs. Joe Bruno, Sheldon Silver and other Albany politicians frequently utter the word politics in the same sneering tone of voice often used with words such as terrorism and discrimination and blindfolded albino midget wrestling.
It's as if politics and those who practice it only exist in some evil alternate dimension, and the rest of us (we of sound mind and perfect judgment) are able to observe it from a safe distance, here in reality.
That's nonsense. The reality is that our democratic, representative system of government, and many other spheres of public life -- such as business -- are political. Voting is just as much a political act as running for public office.