Chip Shots by Chip Griffin

Should I Opine About Politics? That is the Question

Some of you know that in a past life I was involved in politics and policy in Washington, DC.  I spent time on Capitol Hill, with a think tank, and in various advocacy or public affairs positions.   I haven’t been involved in politics regularly in about 7 or 8 years, but every so often the political bug bites me.  Nowadays, it tends to be more on the analytical side (as it was when I Twittered about the NH primary last Tuesday, assessing the TV analysis). I do consult from time to time with corporate clients trying to
navigate politics and policy online, but for the most part am out of
the game.

I still have my political views, which frankly have moderated quite a bit over the years, but I tend to keep them to myself.  Certainly in public I tend to refrain from such discussion because too often it degenerates, especially in the social media space.  But in private I do share my view from time to time.  Shel Israel, for one, knows my general outlook, and we are able to agree to disagree without being disagreeable.  If that’s how it were with everyone, I’d be more inclined to offer up occasional political commentary.  Or perhaps even add a political blog to my ever-expanding repertoire.  After all, I used to publish (in the dead tree media) at the rate of about one op-ed per week more than a decade ago.

VC blogger Fred Wilson sometimes shares his political views, and I admire him for doing so, though I most often disagree with his outlook.  It always makes me think about dipping my toe in that water, even if just a little bit.  Twitter friend Matt Searles (another whom I tend to disagree with, based on our private conversations — notice a trend here?) encouraged me this week to talk politics more often.  I appreciate that.

I’m still not sure I’ll speak out, and if I do so, it likely won’t be very often.  But I’m certainly considering it.  I like to think I have useful and interesting things to say, but politics online today all too often becomes polarizing rather than energizing. 

As Fred pointed out in a recent post,

"I know that I mostly irritate people when I write about
politics. I frequently get comments from readers who say something like
‘how can you be such an idiot when it comes to politics?.’"

To me, passionate political debate — or frankly vigorous debate about any topic of import — should be embraced, but so too should it be conducted in such a way as to be both civil and productive.  I have many friends who agree with my outlook and countless others who disagree with some or all of my political views.  And that’s great.  But the coarseness and partisanship of political discourse today often frowns upon cross-party friendships.

Shel Israel touched on this sentiment to a degree this week, and I embrace the gist of his view:

I don’t see Republicans as my enemy. I see them as sincere and dedicated
as my friends who are Democratic. I understand their distrust of a big
government who usually screws it up. I understand their loyalty of a
free market economy.

As an entrepreneur, investor, and communicator, we ignore politics and policy at our own peril.  It really behooves us to speak up, as people like Brad Feld have done when it comes to patent reform.  We need to understand the policies that impact our businesses, our clients, and our lives.  We shouldn’t be afraid to voice our opinions, and it is unfortunate that it so often leads to childish taunts and inflamed rhetoric.

Now certainly as a player in the political game for nearly a decade, I’m not innocent of bombastic or hypocritical rhetoric and actions.  I don’t apologize for them because those were the rules of the game, and I was in no position at such a young age to change the gameplan.  I did like to think I took a more sober view of my actions than others, but that’s more likely ego than reality.

Which all brings me back to the question of whether I should opine in this space or elsewhere on politics and policy.  I certainly have the itch, but my fear is that it would detract from all the other work that I do. 

What say you, dear reader?

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  1. Thanks for this well thought out commentary. I agree with it all. I too had a stint in government, believe it or not, working for a Republican Mass governor–Frank Sargent. I would love to have a really passionate debarte, but it usually gets personal & ugly and I have no taste for it. Let’s try talking something easy–like religion.

  2. Chip, why yes, you must talk about politics more!
    I guess there’s questions about how you might want to go about it. I can certainly sympathize with why you’d be a little low key about it, but I also feel like you have a lot to contribute.
    I tend to love to debate with people… And being a little bit on the left in New England generally makes that a comfortable thing.
    Being an occasional political junky, I sometimes feel like I have more in common with people whom are passionate about politics and are on the right, then people who are sorta superficial about it, and maybe on the left or where ever.. cause then you share a certain passion somewhere.
    I mean it make me think of Hunter S. Thompson hanging out, and having a good old time, with Pat Buchanan. I mean what could be cooler then that?
    At any rate I’d be excited to hear more from you on politics. I know you’re someone I could learn from.
    When I try and talk about politics, or religion for that matter, I often feel like I’m not on real safe ground. What I hope for is good thoughtful conversation, but.. I don’t know what it is exactly. Maybe it’s like politics and religion for many is like a brand that you use to build your sense of identity where in you think more in terms of brand loyalty then anything else.. where the brand loyalty brings with it a kind of moral order that neatly divides people up into good people and bad people based off there relationship to the brand.. so that we are somehow outside of the world of rational human beings… and our humanity gets submerged in the name of whatever system we decided to have our allegiance to.
    I mean that was the problem with Darth Vader, wasn’t it? He lost his humanity to the machine, to the system.
    So I think its a beautiful thing to try and be human. In politics leaders are sometimes criticized for not being good examples, but often the criticism seems to have an agenda to it, which is the problem. I mean I feel like “give me an example of a real human being with a lot of humanity.”
    So I think that’s what you could try and do. Maybe that’s what we need?
    Well its just a thought anyway.

  3. As you alluded in your post, it depends on context.
    In my personal blog, I am fairly outspoken about my political views. This was especially true during the last presidential election, and I expect it to be true in the upcoming.
    But I mention politics not at all in my tech blog.
    In my aviation podcast, my two co-hosts and I have strong political opinions, but we’ve agreed to try to keep them out of that discussion except when truly relevant.
    I really hate it when the people on Boston sports talk station WEEI stray into political talk, even when I agree with them. I go there to hear about sports, there are other places to hear political analysis.
    So I guess for me it’s a matter of proper context and setting.

  4. Chip
    Remember the concept of Freedom of Speech.
    Remember your audience.
    Remember to put things in perspective.
    Politically, I’m what most would consider to be a moderate. Most of the people I see in social media and on Twitter are decidedly to the left of me. You’re probably to the right of me. So you piss off some because many of them here just about the left.
    But then again, guys like Stowe Boyd seemingly are unafraid to offend.
    Plus you’re from New Hampshire. Live Free or Die!!

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