According to Alexis de Tocqueville, writing in about 1835, Americans would “talk politics” at the slightest opportunity. “The cares of politics engross a prominent place in the occupations of a citizen in the United States; and almost the only pleasure which an American knows is to take a part in the government, and to discuss its measures. This feeling pervades the most trifling habits of life…” This contrasts sharply with today’s American political involvement.
Special interests have become so powerful that individuals can’t discuss politics outside of special interest topics. Inside families, one generation may even disagree with another. Seldom do people consider U.S. politics on the basis of clear information or political history, where people could perhaps share a common American heritage. The twenty-first century finds political discussions happening in think tanks and lobby groups in America where big money provides bigger political access. But think tanks and lobbies don’t relate well to American political values at the grassroots.
In 1958, Hannah Arendt wrote about the specialized jargon being used in the sciences and she saw jargon as making a discussion of politics harder–maybe even impossible. She wrote “Wherever the relevance of speech is at stake, matters become political by definition, for speech is what makes man a political being.” As Americans begin to realize that “talking politics” and finding common political ground is harder, as we realize that many recent graduates never studied civics or never read the Declaration of Independence or the U.S. Constitution, the missing language that would aid us all in political discourse seems important–even necessary.
Making the connections between our American political past and present is something that Political Catsup with Economy Fries can help you to achieve. And understanding political changes can help you to understand economic changes too. Americans from Alexis de Tocqueville’s time shared a passion for politics in part because they were united in seeking political policies that would aid American prosperity at home. Wouldn’t it be great to engage in the old American past-time of “talking politics” at the kitchen table over the meat and potatoes or at the market shopping with your friend or during a weekend baseball game?
Sources: Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America, Richard Heffner, ed., (Signet Classics, New American Library, Inc., New York, 1956), original publication 1835, 109.
Hannah Arendt, The Human Condition, with Margaret Canovan, (University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 1958), 3.
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