Wednesday, May 22, 2019

My Peeviest Pet Peeve is Political

When I read that, I wanted to scream.  Why?  Because pretty much everything is political in one way or another and saying something appears to be political is a pretty silly way to think about things.  Let me first address the general peeve and then focus on the specifics of Mueller and the investigation.

One of the fun parts of starting out in political science is thinking about what it covers.  What does it mean for something to be a subject of political science?  What does it mean for something to be political?  I am both too lazy and too busy to reach for my Aristole books (to discuss what a polis is), so I will focus on the basics: whenever people have to decide something.  Yep, that's it.  Deciding what the rules are, deciding how to distribute something, deciding responsibilities--these are all political things. 

So, when folks talk about something becoming political or politicized, it mostly seems beside the point.  One can argue whether something is becoming polarized, which is very different, but something becoming more of a topic for politicians or for elites in the community to decide?  That just means increased salience and relevance.  What people often try to mean with "more political" is that something that was being left alone or being resolved outside of the political arena is now being decided in the political arena--at the city council, the statehouse, the federal (or not so federal) government.  Of course, lots of things become political--being fought over in national politics--because the old way of deciding things was fine for some people and not others.  Here's where Rush really comes in--choosing not to decide is still a choice.  Choosing to keep things out of the political arena is not a neutral choice as it favors those who benefited from the old order, the old way of deciding things. 

I could go on with this, but the basic idea is that the stuff of politics is the stuff of life, of society, of groups.  That we can defer decision to "the market," which again is a choice or we can choose to delegate decision-making to some authority, but that, too, is a political decision. 

Now, onto Mueller.  A guy gets asked by a part of government (Deputy Attorney General, if I remember correctly) to investigate whether crimes were committed during the course of the Presidential campaign including the possibility that one presidential campaign (hint: not the Democrats) conspired (not collusion) with Russia in the run up to the election.  While there are many, many topics covered by political science and the label of politics, none are more POLITICAL than elections.  The national process to choose the next leader is as classic a topic of political science and something of politics than anything else.  Indeed, when folks learn someone is a political scientist, they often focus first on elections.

Indeed, this is very, very POLITICAL combo: elections and foreign interference.  Mueller was essentially asked if the current President had committed crimes, whether he obstructed justice and whether he conspired with the Russian government (indeed, focusing on the Russian government, rather than Russians, is one way that Barr tries to argue that there was no conspiracy). The context is as plain as it gets--should the President be impeached (since the Department of Justice in an incredibly political decision decided the President can't be indicted--something this agency did not decide in 1998 for Bill Clinton)?  While one can try to focus strictly on the legal stuff--does something rise to the level of being indictable, whether laws were broken--impeachment is as political as it gets: should the legislature try to remove the President? 

Mueller saying he does not want to appear in a televised Congressional hearing because he would appear political just incredible.  As in: not believable.  Mueller waded deep into the muck of politics (I actually don't think politics is muck, but let's run with Mueller's mindset for a moment) as soon as he decided to take on the job of investigating the President and the campaign.  He ain't getting out of it now. 

It was inevitable even before Barr lied about the report that Mueller would be testifying in front of Congress.  So, I just have one last thing to say to Mueller, "Hey, Marine, suck it up and DO YOUR JOB!"

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