Each vote may seem like an insignificant drop in a 135-million-vote bucket, but the group labors with the knowledge that it is working in concert with like-minded organizations across the state and country each doing its part. The group also knows, and sees, that opposing groups, with very different values, are also getting supporters for the other side. They are in a pitched battle with one another, each seeking political control.
What they’re all doing, that’s politics.
I often think of groups like this during evenings I spend on my couch. As I fold laundry half-heartedly, I watch TV and clutch my phone. I refresh my Twitter feed to keep up on the latest political crisis, then toggle over to Facebook to read clickbait news stories, then over to YouTube to see a montage of juicy clips from the latest congressional hearing. I then complain to my family about all the things I don’t like that I have seen.
What I’m doing, that isn’t politics.
Most of us are engaging with politics to satisfy our own emotional needs and intellectual curiosities. That’s political hobbyism.
What I’m doing I call political hobbyism, a catchall phrase for consuming and participating in politics by obsessive news-following and online “slacktivism,” by feeling the need to offer a hot take for each daily political flare-up, by emoting and arguing and debating, almost all of this from behind screens or with earphones on. I am in good company: these behaviors represent how most “politically engaged” Americans spend their time on politics.