Tuesday, October 01, 2002

Talking Wayyyy Past Each Other

With the fall election approaching and the campaigns approaching their typically feverish intensity, I've found myself becoming more and more disillusioned with politics-as-we-know-it in our country.

My biggest problem is with the half-truths and obfuscation that are standard campaign ad fare, and both sides are guilty. It's hard to find a political ad in which the producer is really concerned about getting the full truth about their candidate out there. Now, I know that this isn't completely the fault of the campaigns... they're simply trying to make a point in the 3.2 nanoseconds they have before the average tv watcher either tunes out the ad or flips the channel. And this is clearly a problem beyond the politician's control. Nonetheless, it would be refreshing to see a campaign in which full disclosure is the norm, rather than the extreme rarity.

Another thing that troubles me is the lack of any authentic discussion on the issues. In my experience, Americans heavily involved in politics (as participants or spectators) tend to suspect their opponents on the other side of the aisle of the vilest motives. Take this letter to the editor in the NY Times, in which the writer warns that Republicans are for "regressive economic policies; and against protecting the environment, civil liberties and civil rights, a woman's right to choose, and occupational safety." Yes, that's right: those evil Republicans actually desire pollution, a police state, and on-the-job injuries. Come on! Of course, conservatives can be just as guilty of such suspicions: I have many friends who have stated at one time or another that liberals and Democrats are just out to use Big Government to run our lives. Please. Hey, I live in South Dakota now -- Tom Daschle's home state -- and as much as I can't stand his style and as much as I disagree with this policy positions, I would never say that his secret plan is to rule the life of every American. But it's because of these suspicions that we all too often fail to listen to the other side, and therefore never engage them in meaningful discussion.

Finally, I'm tired of too many politicians basing their actions on the desire to retain or gain political power rather than on principle. My primary example? Daschle's argument during the tax-cut debate, using the example of how a "rich" person would get back enough money to buy a BMW, while a "middle-class" person would only get enough to buy a BMW's tire. Talk about disingenuous! Senator, of course the middle-class taxpayer is going to get back less in a tax cut in which the rates are cut by the same percentage... they pay less in taxes in the first place! (I'm sure there is a similar example from the other side.) It's this sort of half-truth (again) that irks me, and (in my opinion) really prevents America from having a debate about the issues, and ultimately, about the First Things. But then, we've never really been a people interested in First Things, have we?

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