Saturday, November 3, 2012

The political "blood sport" needs to end

Civility and respectful debate are sorely needed in our discourses again

We live in interesting times, indeed. Our democracy is in grave danger, and not from any extraneous threat, but rather from elements within our own nation. When people’s decision-making can be altered by the biases of rumor and innuendo -- when a good portion of the populace is easily convinced that the president’s birth was a fabricated event -- we’re in serious trouble.

The aforementioned deception mentioned above is but one example of what is wrong with politics today. There are many more similar in nature to it, derived from the extremes of both sides of the political spectrum. Most of us scoff at these laughable assertions, understanding that, with a little bit of research and some common sense, they don’t hold a weight of truth to them.

Others among us, however, fail to conceive that what is written in some media, what is portrayed as truth by some but is factually inaccurate when held up to valid scrutiny, could possibly be wrong. They inherently believe what is written in the headlines, failing to go beyond the title of articles or listen to speeches beyond the sound bytes they hear on television, to truly understand what it is they’re seeing, hearing, or reading.

These people aren’t stupid; rather, they’re willing to believe what they want to hear. A liberal mind that doesn’t delve into the depths of articles willingly believes that Mitt Romney didn’t pay any taxes for the past ten years before the years he did release publicly; conversely, a conservative mind that similarly refuses to dig deeper willingly considers President Barack Obama to be a communist, or better yet a non-citizen, though both assertions are false accusations.

Such sensationalism is despicable, and though most of the fault belongs to those refusing to go further than the byline, much of the blame lies within the media itself. The press and other opinionated media have a responsibility to provide the citizenry with the truth, and when applicable to let people know the difference between a newscaster’s opinion and fact.

This responsibility that the media has ignored is vitally important, especially during this day and age of extreme partisanship. When the people see the president or his opponent as being “the other,” rather than as human beings (fully capable of having some character flaws), it becomes a competitive blood sport, a game of sorts over who can make the other guy look worse.

This isn’t politics; it’s gossip. It’s worse than that even, because it affects all those who will be governed by the king of the bull-manure-laden mountain. The people deserve more than that -- they deserve meaningful dialogue and contentious debates over policy positions, over what the candidates stand for, and what they’d do if such-and-such situation came about.

We don’t need to know if the president ate dog as a child; we don’t care about what kind of underwear his GOP counterpart wears. What matters is what they will do if elected, and how it will affect the individual considering voting for them.

A return to civility is sorely needed. This doesn’t mean that argument needs to stop completely; indeed, argument is healthy in a democratic society. But some ground rules need to be established, some base of support erected, in order to ensure that all candidates will be given serious consideration when it comes to our elections. Without that base of support, we risk turning our politics into a dramatic theatrical performance, no better than the daytime soap operas or entertainment news magazines seen on television.

Our politics and our discussions should focus on what matters most -- what is possible and what will happen should this or that candidate assume office. Anything beyond that is simply a ball of fluff.

1 comment:

  1. However you decide to vote, you get what you voted for. I agree with your premise but if voters wish for incivility and disrespectful behavior, it's on the people. Our Republic would be better served with what you prescribe. The big question is, does incivility and disrespectful behavior help? Wisconsin and the recall may have your answer.