"Experiencing Politics" is a look at legislative politics as observed by a state legislator, John McDonough, who served in the Massachusetts legislature. It is interesting reading one legislator's account and descriptions of how the legislative process works. Political theory and reality are compared. For instance, the author notes that it was Machiavelli who noted that strong societies channel their political conflicts and social frictions into a democratic process. These democratic battles actually strengthen society. It is governments that suppress conflict that become unstable. He notes this appears to be true, as no democratic government has even gone to war against another democratic government.
The author observes that political mobilization is dominated by wealthier political interests. This is especially noticed in political fights over Massachusetts's health care system, which is a focus of this book. This fight is particular fierce for one wealthy side's gain would come at the expense of another wealthy side. This clash of political titans creates a major schism in attempting to make any changes to the current health care system.
While wealthier interests may have advantages, this does not mean that parties with lesser influence are forgotten. The author observes that while political leaders from both parties had favored landlords in revising landlord-tenant law, neither side wished to be publicly identified with landlords. Thus, the legislation was revised in a manner than favored tenants, even though tenants appeared to have less influence over the legislature.
The author urges parties in a political dispute to learn the real and personal interests of the parties involved in the dispute. Knowing these interests and how they would be affected by each step helps in guiding parties as to the risks and rewards of taking alternative steps.
Some political scientists state that political change tends to occur incrementally. While the author concludes this is the usual process, he does argue that comprehensive changes are also possible and should not be overlooked. Comprehensive changes can occur when those with political power perceive that a problem is serious enough that comprehensive changes are required and the political elements are aligned for comprehensive changes to be approved.
It is good to see state legislators writing about their legislative experiences. From notations such as John McDonough's observation that legendary Massachusetts Senate President William Bulger was not as harsh as his reputation to more general observations about the political process in theory, this book is very useful to people who wish to learn more about state legislatures and politics.