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The newspaper of The Johns Hopkins University July 23, 2007 | Vol. 36 No. 40
Hate politics? You're not alone

A hugely unpopular, open-ended war in Iraq. A president who won the White House with a Supreme Court decision rather than the popular vote. A global war on terror that some would say does more to alienate potential friends than to keep us safe. An election that is more than a year away but already has a huge number of wannabe presidents shaking hands and kissing babies.

It would almost be enough, Benjamin Ginsberg says, to motivate even Uncle Sam to pack his bags and move to Canada.

But the Johns Hopkins University political scientist and author offers a more practical approach: Stay stateside and embrace your inner cynic. That pessimistic political approach is the core of Ginsberg's new book, The American Lie: Government by the People and Other Political Fables (Paradigm Publishers, July 2007).

"Once we see that politics is about self-interest and that political rhetoric is the weaponry of political struggle, we can begin to understand the sometimes cold and harsh reality of the political process," said Ginsberg, the David Bernstein Professor of Political Science and director of the Center for the Study of American Government at Johns Hopkins. "Politicians do not strive for office year after year because they are desperately eager to provide us with pension checks. Readers who are still of the opinion that politics is driven by an altruistic pursuit of the public good probably also believe in the tooth fairy and the Easter bunny and have total confidence in the claims of telemarketers."

Despite assurances to the contrary, politics is not about truth, justice and principle, Ginsberg asserts in The American Lie. Rather, it is about money, power and status, he says. As Ginsberg argues in his book, politicians pretend to fight for principles in order to conceal their true, selfish motives. Ginsberg encourages citizens to become "realistically cynical" in their participation in the 2008 election process, to think outside the ballot box and find new ways to act on behalf of their own individual interests and the greater public good. And if voters do make it to the polls, Ginsberg's advice is, "When in doubt, vote them out."


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