The most important question in politics

Days like today, the days after Election Days, always take me back mentally to Valparaiso University and one of my favorite teachers, Dr. Richard Balkema. He taught political science. After an introductory course, I went back to him for one on state and local government. I had only lived in the suburbs then, but I was familiar enough with Chicago politics to enjoy trading stories beyond lectures.

Dr. Balkema liked to connect a lot of points to his favorite movie, “The Candidate” (starring Robert Redford and Peter Boyle, written by Jeremy Larner, 1972, as reminds me). He said often that the most important question in politics is the one that Larner has Redford asking as the last line in the film:

“What do we do now?”

Dr. Balkema would apply it to all sorts of different situations, but it rings in my ears on days like this. The most important question happens, in Larner’s story, after Redford’s finished with the election. (No spoilers here, I hope.)

So on we go.

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Filed under: Expressions


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  • That is always the question I assume from the context that the question refers to what the politician is going to do now. The electorate has done what it could, but probably is not going to get what it wants.

  • In reply to jack:

    You're right about the context, Jack. The scene consists of Redford's politician character walking through a hotel with his senior advisor until they reach a private area. Then Redford asks what they (politician and advisor) do now.

  • What do the Republicans do now? A good question since they've been nothing but anti-Obama for six years.

  • In reply to Aquinas wired:

    Years 7 and 8 for a President are usually bad news for getting anything through Congress, except for 2008, when Congress felt impelled to do something because there was a real disaster.

    Looks like a bad year for Luis Gutierrez, but he hasn't been able to get anything through the House for many years now.

    The real question is whether being anti-Obama has relevance to the 2016 election in their minds, in which case that tells you what they will do.

  • In reply to jack:

    "Usually" is a useful word, isn't it? These will be interesting times (and yes, I've heard about that being considered a curse to wish on someone).

  • In reply to Aquinas wired:

    As you see, it's a non-partisan, all-purpose question. I don't pretend to have any answers, or I'd have been running.

  • In reply to Margaret H. Laing:

    Are you serious, Margaret?

  • In reply to Aquinas wired:

    Pardon me while I stop giggling at the great question. OK, calm restored.
    As far as running goes in the reply above, I was serious about not pretending to have any answers, and seriously facetious about running.

  • In reply to Aquinas wired:

    I took her initial post as just posing a general question, not that she was acting as George Will in proposing a Tea Party agenda in today's Tribune, nor as those from Bloomberg on Charlie Rose last night saying that the Republicans who won the Senate races beat off Tea Party challengers in the primaries, and might actually do something.

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