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Anthony Trollope poked fun at those fascinated by political life, obsessed with “the close, bosom friendship, and bitter, uncompromising animosity, of these human gods—of these human beings who would be gods were they not shorn so short of their divinity in that matter of immortality.” What hones the pleasure they derive from following the latest news is the fact that Parliament is not an “­Olympus in which Juno and Venus never kissed.” It is, rather, a world of shifting alliances where “the divine bosom, now rabid with hatred against some opposing ­deity, suddenly becomes replete with love towards its late enemy.” This provides opportunities for effusions of enthusiasm and expressions of outrage, giving our humdrum lives the drama they might otherwise lack.

The political scientist Eitan Hersh, whose new book is Politics Is for Power, would say that this approach to politics is in truth entertainment, indulged by many for hours each day as they consume media new and old. It is not the real work of gaining and exercising power. He calls the sorts of people Trollope satirized “hobbyists.”

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