Jayne: Politics entertaining, but governance affects people’s lives

By Greg Jayne, Columbian Opinion Editor

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Greg Jayne, Opinion page editor

This politics thing can be fun.

Aggravating, sure. Frustrating, certainly. Infuriating, absolutely. But it also can be fun — in a car-crash sort of way — to watch the machinations that come with attempts to influence public opinion through sometimes disingenuous means.

And while politics can provide endless hours of entertainment, here is the part that generates aggravation at every level from the county building to the U.S. Capitol: There is a difference between politics and governance. Between believing you can be victorious and recognizing that you are impacting people’s lives. Between megalomania and magnanimity.

You see, as a recovering sports editor, I can appreciate the game and the thrust-and-parry that comes with politics; as Barack Obama reputedly said, “Everybody knows politics is a contact sport.” Yet I loathe the attitude that says governance must result in winners and losers and that compromise is a sign of weakness.

Which brings us to recent comments from House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., who said: “Everybody thought Hillary Clinton was unbeatable, right? But we put together a Benghazi special committee, a select committee, and what are her numbers today? Her numbers are dropping. Why? Because she’s untrustable. But no one would have known any of that had happened.” Yes, by all means, let’s have a congressional committee that meets for 17 months — and counting — while spending more than $4 million — and counting — in order to lower Hillary Clinton’s poll numbers.

Clinton might very well be untrustable. Her use of a personal email server as secretary of state certainly calls her judgment into question. But McCarthy’s admission to the obvious — that the commission to “investigate” the deaths of four Americans in Libya is politically motivated — highlights the difference between politics and governance. And it highlights the fact that the American public deserves better.

Telling the truth helped force McCarthy to withdraw from the race for Speaker of the House. But that didn’t stop Rep. Richard Hanna, R-N.Y., from piling on: “This may not be politically correct, but I think that there was a big part of this investigation that was designed to go after people — an individual, Hillary Clinton.”

Now, two comments from two congressmen do not an indictment make. But congressional Republicans’ pandering obsession with Benghazi and Obamacare and Planned Parenthood calls to mind a quote from Ronald Reagan: “It has been said that politics is the second oldest profession. I have learned that it bears a striking resemblance to the first.”

County deserves better

That leads us to a local example of governance taking a back seat to politics. According to the state Public Disclosure Commission, Clark County Councilor David Madore has contributed $292,500 to groups supporting the write-in campaign of Liz Pike for county chair. This comes after he contributed $240,124.20 to his own failed campaign for the position.

Madore is free to spend his money however he chooses. And he might deeply believe that a candidate who is not officially a candidate and is not campaigning is the best choice for county chair. But all of this makes me wonder whether Madore is interested in governing, in trying to make this county a better place for residents, or whether he is addicted to the politics of manipulating the county into his own personal fiefdom.

The odds are strong that Madore will end up having to work alongside a county chair — either Marc Boldt or Mike Dalesandro — that he spent more than a quarter-million dollars trying to defeat. That might make for great political theater, but it doesn’t say much about his desire to effectively govern. As Alexis de Toqueville might or might not have said, “In a democracy, people get the government they deserve.”

Which places the burden upon us, the voters. While politics can be a lot of fun, governance is serious business. And games are only fun until somebody gets an eye poked out.