If you don’t like what a politician says, a quick response (and sometimes the only one) is to decry their statement as politically motivated. Or attach the phrase to a policy, or a criminal prosecution, or a smear, or …
The purpose of saying so is to cast a sense of distrust on the statement or action. But what does it mean?
Look first at motivation.
The site Business Jargons calls that word (in a not-unusual definition among dictionaries) “a driving force which affects the choice of alternatives in the behavior of a person.”1 I chose a business-oriented source for the word because the study of motivation is so central to modern business activity. (One book on my shelf is Why We Buy: The Science of Shopping, by Paco Underhill.) Successful and modern businesses know a lot about our motivations, sometimes a scary lot. But they keep researching, because there’s always much more to learn; they’re smart enough to know they never know all about what motivates us – and what might motivate us to buy from them.
There is, of course, the motivation to fulfill basic needs (shelter, food, water, and so on). One report suggests motivation can be split into inside and outside factors: “intrinsic motivation and extrinsic motivation.
Intrinsic motivation states that people are motivated by internal rewards like fulfillment and contentment. Conversely, extrinsic motivation states that people are motivated by external rewards like a bonus or raise as well as negative external factors like getting fired.”
In any one life, many things are going on, and for any person (even a politician) the cross-currents can run unpredictably. We may jump to a conclusion about why a person did a particular thing, but the truth is that we often don’t know perfectly clearly why we ourselves do some of the things we do. That complexity is what keeps whole economic consulting businesses in business: There’s a lot we don’t know.
Why did a politician do X? We can guess. They can proclaim. But the answer may be hard to determine conclusively.
Was something done with the motivation of gaining some advantage in a political situation? Maybe.