For many of us, politics is a grim and glum affair. Worrying about the world's problems, getting cynical about the prospects for positive change, sighing and finger-wagging at our ideological opponents... you know, the classics. But it doesn't have to be that way — not all that way, at least — even if you're a die-hard, wake-up-every-morning-and-scan-the-news political junkie. The fact is, there are upsides to being obsessed with politics too.
Of course, everything has its limits. Just like I wouldn't want to spend 20 straight hours watching TV, even if it were one of the best shows ever (cough, House Of Cards, cough). It's sometimes worth taking a step back, because if you stay locked into any one space for too long, the world outside can start to look a little alien.
But having more or less been an enthusiastic follower of the American political scene since high school, I know very well that there are benefits, too. Sure, you might have looked a little silly feverishly checking your phone for updates on the Supreme Court Obamacare ruling every 40 seconds, but you're ahead of the game in the long run. Here are some upsides to being a political junkie, because everybody needs a hobby, right?
1. It's Hard To Catch You Off Guard
What's that, you say? House Speaker John Boehner hired his cat as a senior adviser? No need to look shocked, because you knew this was coming days ahead of time... you know, back when you saw that leaked memo about Boehner's office renovation, complete with dozens of scratching posts. In fact, you've also got an idea what this means within Congress — you probably read that Politico report last year about how his cat was a card-carrying member of the NRA.
Basically, when you're keyed into the political world, it's not that nothing surprising ever happens — but when it does, you've got the basic knowledge and understanding to put it in its proper context.
2. Your Version Of Sports Has No Off-season
If you're a football fan in March, well, you've got a long summer ahead of you. But if it's the inner workings of the legislature and its evolving, often-fraught relationship with the executive and judicial branches that excites you, you're pretty much set on a year-round basis. Sure, there are exceptions — the occasional bye week here and there — but on the whole, there's always something politically interesting happening somewhere in the world, and indeed within the United States. Politics, unlike Tom Brady, never has to rest.
3. You'll Be In Good Company
Yeah, there are some frustrations that come with being a member of the politically aware crowd. Maybe you've got that friend who just can't turn off the rhetoric long enough to enjoy a meal, or the sexual partner who keeps bringing up Rand Paul in the bedroom, or the in-law whose views are slightly... retrograde, let's say.
But it's still a worthwhile tradeoff. For all the insularity and niche appeal that can go with your politics-loving friends, family, and acquaintances, it still beats having a field of discussion you really enjoy possibly off-limits. A lot of people, after all, find it rude to get into discussions about such things, a conversational burden you wouldn't carry if you just wanted to talk about the new HBO lineup.
4. You'll Never Age Out Of Your Hobby
There are all kinds of social pressures that factor into how people want to be seen — the number of 55-year-olds who unironically love the Power Rangers, in other words, might not be that high.
But by taking on political knowledge and culture as an interest, you're kind of Benjamin Buttoning it. You'll seem to stick out a little in your younger years, maybe, but as you grow older, what once seemed simply geeky and wonky will assume an aura of learning, experience, and education. Plus, politicians tend to be on the older side, which handily postpones that moment when you realize you've gotten older than the people you obsessively watch and read about. For those of us watching the NBA playoffs, that moment may have shown up a little quicker than anticipated.
5. You'll Learn How To Move Forward, In Good Times And Bad
If you're a politically minded person, then you really can't avoid being on the receiving end of some delirious highs and dizzying lows. I was born in 1986, and having come of age a a liberal youth during the Bush administration, his 2004 reelection was one of the glummer days of my teenage life. Conversely, the reelection of President Obama in 2012 was an exuberant affair, and honestly much more emotionally fulfilling than my even-keeled feelings about his administration would suggest.
Basically, when you care about politics and policy, it's like you're constantly putting something central and vital to yourself up for a public debate, and often a vote. It's not exclusive to just the left or right wing — your ideas and ideals are going to suffer a lot of defeats along the way, and you'll end up learning more about yourself in the process.
6. The Stakes Don't Get Much Higher
If you want adventure, you have a few options. You could hop on a roller coaster, or jump on a plane to Paris. You could dye your hair purple. Or, if you want, you can reflect on the ways your world will be different — and better, you hope — now a major law has been enacted, or a discriminatory policy thwarted.
Obviously, not every bill, law or position is going hugely important, or even interesting, but politics is one of the few realms where the stakes actually line up pretty proportionally with die-hard followings. An intense, in-depth conversation about the role of the filibuster in our modern-day Congress might look weird to an outsider, sure. But there's no denying it's important.
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