Politics is the art of the possible

I’ve heard “politics is the art of the possible’ a couple of times over the last few days. Ex Green MP @KevinHague (now chief executive of Forest & Bird) expanded on it:

I’ve been thinking about “politics is the art of the possible”. Part of the art is recognising possibilities. And part of it is creating them.

I talked about this with Kevin a few years ago, we were discussing an issue that was not possible to progress at the time, but is on the political table now, cannabis law reform (thanks to the Green party having their first stint in government).

The original quote is attributed to Otto von Bismarck: “Politics is the art of the possible, the attainable — the art of the next best”.

There is no point in putting too much time and effort into a cause that is hopeless at the time., It was hopeless trying to do anything about the growing cost of superannuation when National were in government. It remains hopeless with NZ First a deciding vote in the current government, and CGT also seems a hopeless cause now.

So recognising when the time is right to promote a particular cause is important if you want to avoid total frustration.

Creating opportunities is trickier. Some opportunities are enabled by events, like firearm control in the wake of the Christchurch mosque massacres, but chances like that don’t happen very often.

The headline could be qualified, like ‘MMP politics in New Zealand is the art of the possible’, but under a quite different political system in the US the same applies. President Obama struggled to reform medical care in the US, and President Trump is struggling to get his wall built.

In some cases possibilities are fluffed. In the UK a possibility was created with the Brexit vote, but the governing politicians seem to be doing everything they can to make the democratic will of the people impossible.

There are legitimate concerns that’s where the current government here may be heading with the cannabis referendum.  On current plans they intent on making it possible for a future government to stuff around with the democratic will of the people.

What does “politics is the art of the possible” mean for a political forum like this? There is no point in moaning about a lack of opportunity to get what you want, or prevent what you don’t want.

It is pragmatic, and less stressful, looking for the political glass half full rather than getting frustrated and bothered over what isn’t in the current political glass, or class.