Amanda Marcotte has a very interesting post up at Pandagon today, in which she deconstructs political purity demands (e.g., Obama didn’t achieve single-payer as part of health-care reform, so therefore he is just as bad as McCain would have been, and in 2012, I may as well vote for the Republican candidate even though I consider myself a Democrat) as essentially deriving from unbridled control-freakism. Here analysis is very detailed and well-considered, and I urge you to go read it there for the full political implications.
What I do want to treat in a little more detail here is her diagnosis and prescription for keeping this tendency from getting the best of you:
[T]he illusion of control ironically diminishes your power in the world. Time spent chasing phantoms is time not spent doing the hard work of trying to exert influence.
This is a very important insight not just for dealing with political reality, but for dealing with personal and professional reality. For example, there is a vocal contingent of highly disgruntled NIH grant applicants who—when they have trouble getting their grants funded in this admittedly very difficult fiscal climate—rant and rave about how the peer review system that is the basis for allocating limited available funds is “corrupt” and “broken” and demand “immediate reform” (see here for an illustrative recent example). As Amanda points out, this time spent chasing phantoms does nothing but distract attention and divert effort from doing the hard work of trying to understand how things really work and doing your best to achieve your goals int he context of that well-formed understanding of reality.