RealPolitik | All Blogs

Let’s get started!

By Charles Ashby


No, that's not some Soviet term for a true native of Poland.

Actually, it was coined by Otto von Bismark way back in the late 19th century. It refers to politics based on practical and material factors rather than theoretical or ethical objectives.

For you students of political history, Bismark thought the politics of the day in Europe was too abstract, so much so that it wouldn't get him where he wanted to go.

He devised Realpolitik as a way to achieve his main goal: building a powerful German empire. It was Machiavellian in its thinking, ruthless in its application.

The basic idea was to achieve political goals by any means necessary, even if it meant being unprincipled.

Many people have complained statewide and throughout the nation that American politics have been too much like that in recent years, that maybe we should return to a form that's more ethical, more reasoned, more civil.

As a political reporter in Colorado and elsewhere, for years I've had discussions with elected officials, lobbyists, political wonks and others about the state of politics. Often they ask why things have become the way they are.

My usual response is that to many politicians, their first duty is to do whatever it takes to get elected. Their second duty, however, isn't to the people who put them there. No, it's to get re-elected. As a result, decisions are based solely with that goal in mind. Though exceptions do occur, they are rare.

Those politicians know that people don't like earmarks tacked onto bills in Congress, unless of course the money is coming to them.

Politicians know that it's one thing to say you oppose illegal immigration or support health care reform. It's another to actually do something about it for fear of upsetting one side or the other.

In the 1940s, then Colorado Gov. Ralph Carr opposed President Franklin Delano Roosevelt's order to intern Japanese Americans during World War II, not because one was a Republican and the other a Democrat. No. Despite his wildly unpopular stance, Carr openly and loudly opposed the wildly popular plan even though he knew it would cost him his political career, which it did.

In this blog, I hope to point out the motivations behind the politicalspeak of the day in hopes that readers will learn the difference between what's right for a politician and what's just plain right.

I hope you will help. Blogs, by definition, function through give and take. Unlike regular news stories, this isn't "they speak, I write, you read." Here, I want to reverse that. This is your turn to speak.

Let them listen for a while.


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