Sunday, September 20, 2009

My Old Politics vs Todays Politcs

Many folks are bemoaning the coarseness of our political culture, politics has always been rough and tumble in this country, we now just see more of it because it is in our faces due to the 24 hour news channels and the Internet. But, I have to admit that it does seem so much more mean spirited than when I was involved in the running of local and regional campaigns and leading local efforts on behalf of state and presidential campaigns. I gave up active involvement in the mid 90's.

Campaigns and politics today seems to be more about power than improving our nation, state, county or city. The national Republicans seem to only care about hurting this President rather than attempting to work with him to solve our massive problems. The national Democrats seem more interested in internal power struggles and enacting revenge of Republicans for stealing the presidential election in 2000 and for the foul misleading campaigns run against democrats in the Gingrich era. The politics of personal destruction seems to be the norm and the politics of hope and the future seem to be fading into the fog of my memory.

I am old enough to remember when statesmen, a few women, led this nation, politicians seem so much smaller now. The great and soaring debates in the Senate are now just talking points and sniping with flip charts flapping in the background. Ted Kennedy the last serving member of that era. They used to do combat all day and at night retire to the Speakers Office or to some restaurant or private club to play poker, have drinks and a meal. A lot of work was accomplished in those after hour meetings, friendships were formed across party lines and relationships developed. This allowed for compromises to come about and legislation moved forward and the government worked.

Now it's all about scoring points, appealing to the base and attracting campaign contributions. It's about saying outrageous things so you can get a segment about you on one of the many news/talk shows on MSNBC/CNN/Fox. Those evening sessions in the House shown on c-span are not real sessions and not really debates. Member's can just schedule time and speak to an empty chamber. Newt effectively used these sessions when he was managing the GOP takeover of the House in the early 90's.

Local politics was never this mean before. I remember speaking on behalf of candidates and criticizing our opponents position but I don't remember the name calling and the personal attracts. Most of us believed that we would need their support after the primary so we did not want to piss them off too much. We would also need their supporters to join us knocking on doors. We always retired to the bar in the back the room bought each other drinks, gossiped and talked about our families, our jobs and what was going to happen during the next presidential or gubernatorial campaign. This behavior often followed into the general elections. We did not hate the Republicans we just thought our ideas were better and I believe they felt the same way. Granted it was easy to be a Democrat in Northampton County because we always won. But, after candidate nights we would always ask about each others families, tell each other about upcoming events and of course gossip.

What is at stake now is no more or no less important than what was at stake then. The future we face is nor more or less uncertain, our foreign enemies no less or more scary and the world around us is no more or no less settled than it was then. So what is the difference now?

I am not sure - my answer may come to me over a series of postings but right now I just can't sum it up. Politics reflects the culture so as our culture coarsens I guess it just makes sense that our politicians will coarsen also. But why is it happening?


  1. Donald, Great post! In my view, this partisan rancor is the biggest problem facing us tof\day.

  2. I believe for many, they've lost the ability to accept other views for one of two reasons.

    (1) Cable news keeps on drumming and drumming their skewered ideology day and night. People are buying it as REAL NEWS when it's actually a low form of entertainment commentary like an old rerun of Morton Downy Jr's 'Big Mouth' program format.

    (2) For others it borders on paranoia beliefs that if their views don't bear fruit it's because the "Other Side" has found a way to subversively take over the country.

    It has gone beyond disagreements on ideology and into the realm of personal hatred. Differences in ideas have become personal.

    Both of those I mentioned are constantly reinforced by the entertainment industries. In news, movies, TV shows and video games it's OK to kill as many as possible if they are cloaked as criminals, terrorists, monsters or alien invaders. Movies in the early days were either love stories, about putting together a show or they attempted to show that people who lived in violence failed. These days the person who has the most violence scores points and wins. Our reality TV shows that are highest rated are the ones where dysfunctional people are encouraged to bicker against one another.

    Everyday billions of people go about their mundane lives, but should one of them act like a jackass, they are looped over and over for days on cable news to outrage us. This serves to make it appear "everyone else" has worse behavior, so what's a little 'in-your-face' when we do it?

    We've come a long way since Jimmy Stewart, "It's A Wonderful Life" and other movies like them. These movies reinforced positive messages Hollywood once produced and employed to demonstrate the common bond we all have with one another. If spiteful actions were used against a malicious banker it would only serve to make the crowd as poison filled as the banker was. The message was if they did, they'd be little better then he.

    I wonder how Jimmy Stewart's character would have dealt with oppression in the storyline and how his character would have portrayed him by today's writers. Would he organize a town lynching of the evil banker instead?

    Question is do we reflect the entertainment we ingest OR is entertainment a reflection of our society?