Maybe we aren’t any better than we thought. We’re incapable of actually having intelligent discussions about politics with people with whom we disagree. How sad.
After the last presidential primaries, when Barack Obama and John McCain had emerged from a crowd that included very partisan and shrill major-party competitors, it appeared we were moving beyond the ugliness that’s dominated politics for my adult life.
We the people had looked past alarmist claims about early-morning phone calls and an invasion of immigrants to pick the two guys most likely to cross party lines when principle required, the ones who seemed to have the best characters regardless of individual policy preferences or their parties’ politics.
That seems so long ago now. The choosing of the first black major-party candidate, one with a funny name, brought out the worst in some people and gave his supporters something other than his ideas to blame for any opposition. McCain’s mavericky choice of Sarah Palin as a running mate gave progressives someone to snicker at and those who’ve been too-frequently snickered at someone to rally around.
Once the tea party movement moved beyond what appeared to be a Fox News-sponsored, short-lived spectacle, there was reason for optimism that some genuine, grass-roots yearning for better government was still there.
On a good day, this movement represents wide-spread distrust of the political and corporate establishment and doesn’t necessarily identify with one of the large parties.
It was the government that handed our money to the financial and auto industries. Republican President George W. Bush’s started it, and Democratic President Barack Obama didn’t slow it down or take it back. Lobbyist-written regulations passed by posturing-for-the-public politicians did nothing to stop corporations from making poor decisions, and we were then told that those who should have failed were “too big to fail,” which we know really meant they were big and powerful enough to get an awesome hook-up.
We have every reason to be angry. That anger is well placed, and there is evidence it is something a large majority of Americans share in, agree on. Disaffected Republicans and Democrats, as well as Libertarians, have participated in and sympathized with tea party activities. On some level, we all — that is all of us not directly and handsomely benefiting — really are tired of the status quo.
So why are we still screaming at each other in code? To a progressive, calling someone a “tea-bagger,” says it all. It’s much shorter than calling someone a right-winging, racist, birth-certificate-obsessed, uneducated Sarah-loving hick. Nevermind whether deficit-spending is a huge and legitimate problem. Conservatives are complaining about it, so it must be harmless.
For some reason, some of those tea partiers and many Republicans really are hung up on birth certificates and middle names. They smugly throw the word “teleprompter” out as if it really means something important. They’re not letting the rest of us in on the significance.
The reason I bring this up now is at least several-fold. For one thing, I know I’m guilty of falling into the same pattern and have done it recently. If everyone else is doing it for the same reason I am, it’s because we think that people that don’t see what is obvious to us are stupid. Not pretty, but true.
Now, in some cases, I don’t take it back and don’t feel guilty about it. I’ve written things like, “what has Fox News done to you people,” and described someone as knowing only what Rush or Glenn tells them. However, I feel it’s a legitimate point, and part of the greater problem, that people getting news from a single source and/or only sources that reinforce what they already believe doesn’t lead to informed and critical thinking.
Maybe that’s what’s wrong with the people I do feel somewhat guilty for attacking: Those that defend our last president. I really am not an Obama fan. However, nothing will get me to defend the man faster than someone comparing him unfavorably to W. Bush.
To my mind, the evidence is overwhelming that Bush was at least one of the most miserable excuses for a president this nation has ever had. I’ll be happy to provide the brief recital of his shortcomings I edited out of this column upon request before it reached the newsroom, but suffice it so say, I have my reasons, as did the many people who treated the 2006 congressional elections and 2008 presidential election as a referendum on his leadership.
So, I’m interested because I’m guilty and know it’s wrong, but I’ve also found myself increasingly frustrated with seeing these same type of debates take place among others in private conversation, online discussion and, gosh help me, cable news. “Sarah” and “Hussein” are thrown at each other instead of thoughtfully debating anything of substance.
Health care reform is an important issue that shouldn’t hinge on whether we like Obama or like the people who like him. Just because Rush Limbaugh says something is a bad idea doesn’t mean it isn’t really a bad idea.
Saying unemployment benefits should be properly funded if extended can be a totally rational point even if made by Sen. Jim Bunning and even if he is from Kentucky.
I’m nervous. Stakes are high right now. Today’s policies are likely to reach well into the future and have a huge impact. We’re not rising to the challenge.
Jeffersonville resident Kelley Curran followed a maverick down a hole and found herself at an odd tea party where Presidents were reading riddles from teleprompters. Write her at email@example.com