Wednesday, November 4, 2009
What Bugs Me Is the Meanness
Politics = Partisan. Of course. I'm right, you're wrong. You're totally misguided. You just don't get it.
I get an up-close look at politics every election night. I visit party headquarters for both parties and hear each side rooting for their team. There's certainly a great deal of glee in victory. But what I hate is the nastiness. And it's so unnecessary.
I'm not going to name parties, because the particularly vindictive party here may be the home of rationality somewhere else. No party has a monopoly on mean.
But while I saw interest, even passion at one headquarters last night, I heard zealots on a mission at the other headquarters.
"How'd X do?" I heard.
"Excellent. Y is next."
"W got his ass kicked tonight. He never saw it coming."
"They lost because they haven't figured out what they want to be when they grow up."
"They're crooked - the entire lot of them."
Broad, sweeping statements were made about one candidate after another, people many of these partisans had known since childhood. But because they are now on opposite sides of the political fence, they are mortal enemies, firmly on the side of good or evil with no room for discussion or debate.
I have been told I'm immature by Conservatives who read this blog. "Grow up," they write. I find that a simplistic, dismissive response to a clear-eyed view of a dysfunctional system.
Debate societies used to train students to argue a point of view dispassionately, rationally and with reason. The point of debate was to pile up unassailable arguments that toppled opposing viewpoints by their sheer weight. I'm good with that.
I'm equally okay with open-minded discussions of differences, searched for points of agreement from which some working compromises can be found for fundamental disagreements. Sometimes there is just no winning a debate - sometimes the more important task is to find a way to move forward in a bi-partisan way.
And sometimes, the only way to make progress is to give up the skirmishes that can't be won. The Obama Administration, for instance, has given up trying to convince disbelievers that there is such a thing as climate change. It's become too emotionally loaded. So instead it's concentrating its energy on legislation aimed at encourage renewable, sustainable energy. No mention of climate change or global warming. What's the point if that's what will stop a bill in its tracks?
Last night I saw mean-spirited little kids who acted like their pants were too tight, tearing at their opponents with snarling smiles. If these are our political leaders, our system is shot. If they can label you "bad" because you don't go to their church, if they can call you "evil" because you disagree with them on charged emotional issues, if their strategy is to become the good guys by making everyone who disagrees with them the bad guys, they're the immature ones. And I've got no time for them anymore.