All-Consuming Politics

Today POLITICO Arena asks:

Is Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour’s announcement today that he will not seek the Republican presidential nomination in 2012, and the reason he gave for his decision, the right call?

My response:

Gov. Barbour’s explanation for why he will not seek the 2012 Republican presidential nomination – because a candidate today “is embracing a ten-year commitment to an all-consuming effort, to the virtual exclusion of all else,” and he cannot make such a commitment – is not only refreshingly candid but points to a much deeper problem.

We are moving inexorably not simply to news but to politics 24/7/365. And what better example than our current part-time president who, with no primary challenger in sight, is already on the campaign trail (did he ever leave it?), when the election is 19 months away. Some of us are old enough to remember when elected officials served – and ran for office or reelection only around election time.

Part of the reason for the change is the need today for vast amounts of campaign cash. But the deeper reason, I submit, is because politics has taken over so much of life. When government was more limited, and we didn’t look to it to provide our every need and want, those who “governed” didn’t feel such a need to cater to us – and we had better things to do anyway than obsess over politics. Calvin Coolidge took naps in the White House – in his pajamas! Imagine that today.