David Axelrod’s “The Political Animal” (CHF)

David Axelrod’s session at the CHF was completely different from Tammy Baldwin’s. While Tammy Baldwin’s was a speech about her decisions and women in government, David Axelrod’s presentation was just a political conversation between himself and another man. The topics varied widely, from his opinions on our governor to musings on which party will have an easier winning the next election, and he really opened my mind to a lot of things I had never even thought were political. I’ll start with his reason for staying in politics.

One of the more memorable things he said was that “there are many problems with the current political system, but it’s worth the fight to change it”, which is his reasoning for not quitting. This is an interesting point; that you have to play by the rules to change the rules. I’ve heard this before, but I never actually thought it’d be some guy’s whole philosophy for not hating his job. The first story he told us was an anecdote about his youth, when a certain Mr. Lindsay was running for mayor in his town, and he was helping the campaign. He was handing out flyers when a woman gave him a box of doughnuts to take back to campaign headquarters. He came back at the end of the day, and opened the box for everybody to see. It was full of cash amidst the doughnuts, and the adults at the headquarters told him, “We’ll take the cash; you can have the doughnuts.” This was his first political venture, and his first rude awakening to the cynical and self-centered nature of modern politics.

From here, he went on to talk about his opinion on our governor. He said that Pat Quinn took care of his daughter, who is disabled, for a short time. He said that he treated her with dignity – as he would treat any other person – and “for a state where the last two governors went to prison, that’s a pretty good quality to have”. He continued on with his opinion on our system of elections. He said the best way to vote would be to have everyone on the ballot, no matter the party, and have the two people with the highest number of votes compete in the finals, again, no matter their party. In my own opinion, this is not the best way to vote, as it does not ensure that the lower people were not drawing votes away from someone who otherwise could have been first or second in votes – rather, I think that the best way to vote would be to eliminate the person with the lowest amount of votes until only one remains. However, this, of course, is impractical, and Mr. Axelrod’s method will have to suffice. Unfortunately, this is not how it is done, and we have to muck around with primaries before we get to the real thing. He also said some things about how the Tea Party is bad for the Republicans as a whole, as when Republicans campaign for election, they always have to appease the Tea Party, becoming more radical than they would have been. In short, the existence of the Tea Party helps ensure that moderate Republicans will not get elected, because they will not have Tea Party support, but radical Republicans will also not get elected because they do not have moderate support. This also applies to any other radical faction within any political party in any country. It is for this reason that he thinks the Democrats are going to have an easier time winning the election in 2016. He also talked a bit about how districts are often drawn to give political parties advantages in the state elections. Thus, he said politics would be much fairer if the districts are redrawn, and he said the best way to do it would be as it was done in California, where a non-partisan group drew the districts. This is a good idea, as far as I can tell. I had no idea the districts were drawn this way; I always thought they were drawn according to how the land was laid out or how it was granted to the state. He talked about Rod Blagojevich’s campaign for governor, and how he was friends with him when he was a senator. When he started to campaign for governor, Mr. Axelrod asked him why, and he said he didn’t know. He told us that after this, he pretty much completely stopped talking to Mr. Blagojevich. He said that you will never be a good politician unless you have a reason to become one – you have to want to change something to become a good politician. I think this can be applied to life in general: you will never do anything unless you want to. He ended on this note. Overall, I was impressed with his knowledge and love of politics, and I must say I learned a great deal from his presentation.

P.S. By the way, he said he completely agreed with everything the NSA was doing; he assured the audience that unless we were terrorists, the NSA is not looking through our phone calls or web history, which is what I suspected all along (I never understood the big deal about that, or Americans’ huge deal with privacy. What do you people DO on the internet?)

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