Politicize This

"To the families and victims of the tragedy, we offer our condolences and prayers," said Dudley Brown, executive director of Rocky Mountain Gun Owners. "To Mayor Bloomberg and the group that would politicize this, we offer our opposition."

The quote comes from an article on The Huffington Post about a vigil held on the one-year anniversary of the shootings in Aurora, Colorado.

"Don't politicize this." What do people mean when they say that?

When Theo Caldwell said "Don't politicize the IRS - end it," he argued that "the IRS should not be overseeing political speech in the first place."

That's not what the IRS was doing: they were reviewing applications filed by groups who were requesting tax exempt status as 501(c)(4) social work organizations.

When Jennifer Rubin said "Obama can't stop politicizing the courts," she argued that "the president seems to have little sense of the division between politics and law. It is all one big blur, and when convenient, legal cases are simply another opportunity to stir his base."

She may have missed this part towards the beginning of the President's comments:

"The judge conducted the trial in a professional manner. The prosecution and the defense made their arguments. The juries were properly instructed that in a -- in a case such as this, reasonable doubt was relevant, and they rendered a verdict. And once the jury's spoken, that’s how our system works."

Maybe not so much with the blurring.

Scott Spiegel of Red Alert Politics offers the clearest explanation I've seen of what a conservative means by politicization in the following two quotes:

"Conservatives' definition of politicization is: liberals treating them unfairly for partisan reasons. Liberals' definition of politicization is: conservatives pointing out something they did wrong."
"Conservatives know what it's like to have their actions politicized; they live with it every day. Politicization means a constant stream of harassment from supposedly neutral organizations like the IRS and the mainstream media. It means being in the center of an endless maelstrom of invective and facing staggering odds against ever getting their message out."

What are the common threads in these arguments?

The first is this message: "Don't interfere. If you're a political figure, and especially if you're on the political left, don't interfere with our rights as gun owners. Don't interfere with our speech. Don't interfere with our legal rights. Don't interfere when we do the things we do." It's the political right talking at people, instead of talking to them. It's this blog's First Law of the Right: they want to rule, not lead.

The second is this message "We think you're making us out to be the bad guys. We're not." It may not be victimization, but it's close. It's "he's picking on me" writ large.

The problem is, that's not politicization. Politicization puts a private issue into the public sphere. The Aurora shooting weren't a private affair: they affected the public at large. Tax policies are public policies. Rubin was closest to the mark, except for the fact that the President specifically told the nation that the legal system worked. Politicization isn't harrassment, and neither is it criticism.

This is politicization:

We're running away from ourselves, and I know we can score points that way. I was the principle architect in that campaign strategy, right along with you, Josh. But we're here now. Tomorrow night, we do an immense thing. We have to say what we feel. That government, no matter what its failures are in the past, and in times to come, for that matter, the government can be a place where people come together and where no one gets left behind. No one... gets left behind, an instrument of... good.

Politics is the arena in which people come together to solve they problems they cannot solve as individuals. There is a time and a place to put issues into the political arena. There is a time and a place to politicize things. We can't be afraid to solve problems together: doing so is what the Founders intended us to do, when they aspired to form a more perfect union.

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