by Peter Suderman


A reader responds to my post on the problem with politics:

As citizens, we have a responsibility to politics. Putnam fails to take into account that Americans, particularly, have been socialized by a self-preserving elite to see the world of public affairs as “alien”, taught that a trip to the polling place once every four years fulfills one’s civic duty.  With the rise of community organizations of the type in which our President was educated (and you’ll understand that I don’t mean Harvard), we are beginning to see a change in that socialization.

Today, those who argue against political involvement are swimming against the tide.

It's not that I don't think we have any sort of civic duty. But I wonder: How do you have political involvement without the sort of ruckus we're now seeing? As far as I can tell, the health-care protesters at town halls are "politically involved." Lobbyists soliciting favors from Congressmen is "political involvement." Politicians who know better (or should) cynically spreading rumors about "death panels" is political involvement too. It's not all pleasant, community-minded folks peacefully and sensibly arguing in policy-smart bullet points. I don't think it's possible to have a politically involved citizenry and avoid the sort of nuttiness we've seen. This -- the chaos and absurdity of competing interests fighting for what they want and believe -- is what politics looks like.  

We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to letters@theatlantic.com.