Jessie Staley is a freshman studying political science and international studies at MU. She is an opinion columnist who writes about student life for The Maneater.
There is a phrase often used for political propaganda. Most notably, it became a buzzword for the Trump campaign during the last presidential election. It is both illogical and insulting, but incredibly effective in attracting support: “People, not politics.”
Politics is not a popular subject. Multiple factors play into this. It brings attention to disruptive and controversial subjects. There are people who do not understand politics, and then there are people who never want to understand politics. It is confusing and seemingly an issue of arbitrary regulations. So when someone comes along to run for a position with the promise of “people, not politics,” it sounds like a pretty appealing relief to potential constituents.
As a political science and international studies double major, it strikes a nerve when people rag on politics and government. It is concerning. For people to be averse to politics leads to one of two conclusions: Either they believe in the absence of government and regulations, or they do not know what politics is. I usually assume the latter.
Politics does not equal bribery, manipulation or exploitation. Politics equals security, protection and rules. There are both good and bad influences in politics, but politics always has an influence. With every transaction between people, there is a certain level of political tactic. Business is political, a work environment is political, and even family gatherings can be political to an extent. You experience politics every day in almost everything you do. Politics is everywhere.
“People, not politics,” no matter how sexy it may be, is a contradiction. Politics is an inherent characteristic of civilization. You cannot have a collective people without politics, and you cannot have politics without a collective people. Merriam-Webster defines politics as the total complex of relations between people living in society. In the simplest terms, as renowned American political scientist Harold Lasswell put it, politics is “who gets what, when and how.” Politics is essential for a society to establish compromises, coalitions and rules about public relations and leadership.
In short, politics equals rules, and that is a good thing. Politics is the instruction manual to a board game, the contract to a business deal, the lease to an apartment, the subsidies, the taxes, the laws and the rights. Politics decides who goes first in line and who is the victim and what is the crime. Politics is what keeps a society together and running, including the rules that benefit you and the ones that limit you.
Politics is communal, and it is as good as you make it. In order to get what you want out of it, you need to be aware of it and work with it to achieve your goals. Saying “people, not politics” doesn’t mean anything productive or progressive. It moves us backwards as a society at every level. People without politics isn’t a united people at all.
Politics and government were created by people for people. When someone uses propaganda like “people, not politics” in their campaign strategy, this should cause suspicion, not relief. They are not insinuating a united front, they are promising the opposite — whether they mean to or not. People who are inclined to support platforms that emphasize the exclusion of politics suggest that they know little about politics and can relate better to someone who emphasizes personality over credentials. Politics is nothing to be afraid of, so do not be fooled by people who try to trick you into thinking it is. It is a part of your home, and you are a member of the inner workings of the political arena. Don’t sit on the sidelines and dismiss the complexities that come with a cooperative society. Be politically educated and know who and what you are voting for.