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
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?