by Serena Ahmed, intern in the Texas Legislative Study Group
It’s an interesting time to be working at the Texas capitol during a legislative session, and that’s an understatement. Inhumane governmental acts have been committed since time immemorial, but the extremes of what I see as current federal governmental atrocities have been catalysts for widespread confrontation and critique by the masses in this country. People who have never protested before are learning to now. Still, I’ve often heard people state that they have never had, nor will have, the desire for political involvement. I’ve been thinking about this sort of statement and, thus, about the meaning of politics.
Of course, political science is an entire academic discipline devoted to the understanding of politics, and even more illuminating is how this topic has been thought about for hundreds of years. Like all other academic subjects, it is interdisciplinary. Consider this: a typical definition for “politics” is any practice associated with the government. It’s also popularly conceived as an arena of disingenuous appearances for the sake of masking opinions or hidden intentions. This is a good segue into another typical definition that goes a little further: the process of forming coalitions in the struggle over who assumes control over power and distribution of resources. These are all good, basic definitions, but they do not take into account historical, cultural, economic and philosophical contexts. Without acknowledgement of history, there is no understanding of why “politics” is the way it is—namely, why it exists as this separate arena rather than as an integral part of social existence for every person. History reveals politics as an activity associated with a person’s social class. For example, during feudalism—the precursor to our current society—politics was the given role for those born into nobility. Similarly, when the U.S. Constitution was written, only white male landowners were permitted to vote. These are the contexts that have set the stage for people’s involvement in politics.
So, why am I talking about this? As a policy analyst in the Texas Legislative Study Group (LSG), my job is to attend all the committee hearings that I am assigned to, read all the bills that come through those committees, understand the impacts that such bills have on Texas families, and then write analyses for our LSG members on the bills that are on their way to the House floor for voting. We are very lucky to have the supervisor that we do, Ana Ramon, Executive Director of the LSG. She is an expert not only in policies and House rules, but also in Texas politics. Our job as policy analysts is to focus on the policies, rather than the politics, but even so, the two are inseparable. As countless courageous people have said tirelessly, “the personal is political.” With the amount that policy and politics affect our daily lives, it is necessary that we actively engage with the political system—beyond just the voting booth.
It is a privilege to work for Ana and Chairman Rep. Garnet Coleman—people who tirelessly strive for politics and policies that serve Texas families. Like social work, legislative work is an act of service to the people. And legislative work, just like social work, is most successful when everyone works together. The history of politics must be more widely understood in order to begin paths of resolving the divisions between working classes and political classes.