The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Friday December 2nd

Column: Politics isn’t like real estate


Columnist Benji Schwartz

I’ll always remember one of my first poli sci classes at UNC when the professor asked us to define politics. Someone raised their hand and said in Latin “poli” means many and “ticks” are small bloodsucking termites.

The room laughed. The actual answer was something about politics being the discussion needed to determine best courses of action, but I think that for a lot of people revulsion is a natural reaction to the term politics — and this revulsion has had negative effects on this country lately.

The whole American Health Care Act debacle last week is what made me think of this. While I was satisfied with the result because millions of Americans got to keep their health care and I got a new supply of sad Paul Ryan pics (a relief because I’ve had a shortage of those since the campaign season), why couldn’t the GOP, with a commanding majority in Congress and the presidency, pass anything?

The easy culprit is increased political polarization and simultaneous party fracturing, but my main takeaway is that real estate deals are not like politics.

During the negotiations over the AHCA our president went full throttle — he met with individual members of Congress and used his charm and threats to pull them in. When it wasn’t enough he switched to concessions by changing the bill to satisfy hard-line members of the House Freedom Caucus.

And I’m sure if the AHCA was some prime real estate or a (fake) business degree the president would have made the sale. But politics is more complicated — it involves leveraging personal relationships, constituent interests, individual appearances and strong civics knowledge. Every factor involved in politics is subject to constant change.

Personal meetings and deal sweetening could only carry Trump so far. And granting concessions alienated the moderate members.

Basically, politics is something you actually have to be good at in order to succeed, and our constant degradation of politicians (even if well-deserved in many cases) has led people to degrade the skill itself. Ben Carson, with no political experience, was a frontrunner in the GOP primary in 2015. Mitt Romney campaigned on his business acumen rather than his time as a governor. We constantly look to military officials for our politicians despite our country’s spotty history with military presidents — people always talk about Washington and Eisenhower but forget Jackson and Grant. It’s almost enough to make a poor poli sci major break down and cry.

This isn’t to say that there isn’t skill crossover between politics and other careers — Carson can definitely remain calm under pressure and economic backgrounds come in handy, but when we look for our elected officials we need to look for more.

And I guess that if politics is a skill-less job, then the only explanation for the Donald not managing to clinch the deal is that he’s a sub-par businessman. I can live with that.


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