June, 2018, marks the 50th anniversary of Robert F. Kennedy’s assassination. It happened on June 5, 1968, the day after RFK won the California primary on his way to become the nominee for President of the United States. Prominent political leaders often leave through obscure exits in order to avoid being followed. In this case, Kennedy was exiting through the kitchen of the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles when the shots rang out.
He was 42.
Now. You might be wondering why I’m starting a post titled “Good Politics” with the story of a political assassination. Or why I would ever put the words “good” and “politics” next to one another.
If you are, I get it. People go out of their way to avoid professional politics for good reason. They’re mean, they’re petty, they’re not focused on the issues that matter to most Americans, and they are… well, at this point, as it gets harder and harder to tell the difference between a real article and an article from The Onion, they just seem stupid.
But politics are unavoidable, and I’ll give you an oversimplified example: have you ever tried to figure out where to go to dinner with a group of more than three people? It can be impossible sometimes. Somebody doesn’t like that spot you just mentioned, but you don’t like the suggestion they made in response; somebody’s paleo, somebody’s gluten-free, somebody’s vegan, somebody’s more of a “meat and potatoes” type, and the list goes on.
Again, this is oversimplified, but think about it. Politics are about positioning — anytime you’re going out of your way to “reposition” something for somebody or concealing parts of a story instead of talking directly about the thing you want to talk about, you’re practicing politics. And we position in every relationship in our lives. With our husbands, wives, girlfriends, boyfriends, mom, dad, aunt, uncle, bosses, coworkers, and friends.
So just because most of us aren’t involved in professional politics, doesn’t mean we’re not confronted with politics in some form or another every day. We just don’t see our normal interactions as political. And we shouldn’t — I don’t want you to overthink your every day interactions. I just want to make the point that politics are unavoidable, and the only reason we hate professional politics, I think, is that we want our political leaders to set a better example for our own, every day interactions.
And so I’ll finally get to my real point: Good politics only happen when good people get involved.
Which is why today I’m excited to announce that, after a year of hosting events to help introduce our community directly to candidates and their ideas, Liz Coufal and I are launching a series of events called Good Politics to encourage people in communities around the country—starting with Austin, TX—to stop sitting on the sidelines, get involved, and support, not just good causes, but good candidates.
Our politics have a deficit of character because our political process discourages too many people, making them feel like their voice doesn’t matter (it does), that change isn’t possible (it is), and that political leaders are only in the game for their own self-enrichment, not to serve the public (unfortunately, that last part may be true… for now).
It’s up to us to change that last one by getting more involved ourselves, and by encouraging other good people to get involved as well.
The reason I mentioned Robert F. Kennedy at the beginning of this post is that he was a fierce advocate for the idea that government can be good. One of my favorite quotes of his is from a speech he gave in South Africa in 1966. RFK was speaking at the University of Cape Town about how change happens and he said
“Each time a man [or woman] stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, those ripples build a current that can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.”
That’s what we’re looking for. To prove that cynicism is overrated.
We’re looking to join RFK and generations of Americans before ours to prove yet again that a million small acts of kindness, a million small acts of decency, a million small acts of citizenship, a million good neighbors, and millions of good people getting involved in the political process will bring about Good Politics.
Our launch event will be held on August 23 at Native Hostel in Austin, Texas, and we’ll be ramping up over the summer to promote civic engagement and the better angels of our nature.
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We can’t wait to see you out there.