More Than Possible

“Politics is the art of the possible.”

The phrase, practically a cliché in political circles, is usually attributed to Otto von Bismarck , the Prussian politician who unified Germany in the latter part of the Nineteenth Century.  Bismarck, of course, said it in German : Die Politik ist die Lehre vom Möglichen.  The word he used for”possible”,  “Möglichen”, can have the connotation of “maximum possible”,  which is very different from the usual American interpretation of the phrase: “You have to settle for what you can get.”

It’s not true – you don’t have to settle for what you can get.  In every political situation, there is a range of possible and realistic political outcomes.  An effective politician understands that, and works to go as far to the top of that range as she or he can.

It is true, that the first step in analyzing any particular situation is to determine the lowest common denominator, the most achievable favorable outcome.  It is also true that you need to devise a strategy that make sure that the lowest common denominator is achieved.   But it is not true that you have to stop there.  Some politicians use the fact that “you can’t always get everything you want,” as an excuse for not working as hard as possible.  But the best politicians never stop working until a given process is complete, never stop getting just a little bit more.

So don’t be fooled by cynical political types who make fun of citizens who want a completely satisfying solution to a problem — an end to capital punishment, say, or a tax system that makes sense.  If it is in the best interest of the people she or he represents, the right sort of politician will take his or her job seriously, and work to get the people their heart’s desire.