Why Writers Should Not Run for Office


In this article about the political fortunes of writer, country singer and gubernatorial candidate Kinky Friedman, The Guardian reminds us that if history is any indication, writers should be wary of entering politics.

“Consider the case of George Bernard Shaw, who willingly transformed himself into Stalin’s lapdog at the height of the Ukrainian famine, or the embarrassing spectacle of Jean Paul Sartre endorsing Mao as he calmly engineered the deaths of some 40 million Chinese – and they are but the tip of a disgraceful list of writers who hymned the praises of the master butchers of the 20th century. However, as Shaw and Sartre and co were not bold enough to participate in the actual slaughter, they appear frivolous and irresponsible – like wizened, monstrous children. But what about when authors become involved in the actual, grimy decision making process? …

Radovan Karadzic abandoned poetry for leadership of the Bosnian Serbs – and now he’s in the Hague awaiting trial for war crimes.”

The Guardian doesn’t sufficiently own up to the awesomeness of Vaclav Havel, but in general, I think their conclusions are spot on: “Author + professional politics = load of old cobblers at best, disaster at worst.”

Seth Fischer’s writing has twice been listed as notable in The Best American Essays and has been nominated for The Pushcart Prize by several publications, including Guernica. He was the founding Sunday editor at The Rumpus and is the current nonfiction editor at The Nervous Breakdown. He is a Dornsife PhD Fellow at USC and been awarded fellowships and residencies by Ucross, Lambda Literary, Jentel, Ragdale, and elsewhere, and he teaches at the UCLA-Extension Writer’s Program and Antioch University, where he received his MFA. More from this author →