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In the Arena Stories of Political Life   By: (1869-1946)

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First Page:

IN THE ARENA

Stories of Political Life

BY

BOOTH TARKINGTON

TO MY FATHER

[Illustration: THE CONVERSION OF THE SENATOR FROM STACKPOLE]

CONTENTS

PART I

Boss Gorgett The Aliens The Need of Money Hector

PART II

Mrs. Protheroe Great Men's Sons

"IN THE FIRST PLACE"

The old timer, a lean, retired pantaloon, sitting with loosely slippered feet close to the fire, thus gave of his wisdom to the questioning student:

"Looking back upon it all, what we most need in politics is more good men. Thousands of good men are in; and they need the others who are not in. More would come if they knew how much they are needed. The dilettantes of the clubs who have so easily abused me, for instance, all my life, for being a ward worker, these and those other reformers who write papers about national corruption when they don't know how their own wards are swung, probably aren't so useful as they might be. The exquisite who says that politics is 'too dirty a business for a gentleman to meddle with' is like the woman who lived in the parlour and complained that the rest of her family kept the other rooms so dirty that she never went into them.

"There are many thousands of young men belonging to what is for some reason called the 'best class,' who would like to be 'in politics' if they could begin high enough up as ambassadors, for instance. That is, they would like the country to do something for them, though they wouldn't put it that way. A young man of this sort doesn't know how much he'd miss if his wishes were gratified. For my part, I'd hate not to have begun at the beginning of the game.

"I speak of it as a game," the old gentleman went on, "and in some ways it is. That's where the fun of it comes in. Yet, there are times when it looks to me more like a series of combats, hand to hand fights for life, and fierce struggles between men and strange powers. You buy your newspaper and that's your ticket to the amphitheatre. But the distance is hazy and far; there are clouds of dust and you can't see clearly. To make out just what is going on you ought to get down in the arena yourself. Once you're in it, the view you'll have and the fighting that will come your way will more than repay you. Still, I don't think we ought to go in with the idea of being repaid.

"It seems an odd thing to me that so many men feel they haven't any time for politics; can't put in even a little, trying to see how their cities (let alone their states and the country) are run. When we have a war, look at the millions of volunteers that lay down everything and answer the call of the country. Well, in politics, the country needs all the men who have any patriotism not to be seeking office, but to watch and to understand what is going on. It doesn't take a great deal of time; you can attend to your business and do that much, too. When wrong things are going on and all the good men understand them, that is all that is needed. The wrong things stop going on."

PART I

BOSS GORGETT

I guess I've been what you might call kind of an assistant boss pretty much all my life; at least, ever since I could vote; and I was something of a ward heeler even before that. I don't suppose there's any way a man of my disposition could have put in his time to less advantage and greater cost to himself. I've never got a thing by it, all these years, not a job, not a penny nothing but injury to my business and trouble with my wife. She begins going for me, first of every campaign.

Yet I just can't seem to keep out of it. It takes a hold on a man that I never could get away from; and when I reach my second childhood and the boys have turned me out, I reckon I'll potter along trying to look knowing and secretive, like the rest of the has beens, letting on as if I still had a place inside. Lord, if I'd put in the energy at my business that I've frittered away on small politics! But what's the use thinking about it?

Plenty of men go to pot horse racing and stock gambling; and I guess this has just been my way of working off some of my nature in another fashion... Continue reading book >>




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