Thursday, February 02, 2006

Divisive effects

I, like most of my readers and blog-friends, watched the State of the Union address Tuesday. I’m not going to talk about my impressions of his speech or what it could mean. It’s been well covered. Like it or hate it, you felt what you felt before you even heard what he had to say. The fact that you knew how you’d react is what I want to talk about.

When I saw the conservatives on the right jumping up to cheer on the president at every pause and the liberal left at best grudgingly standing to clap at the moments that were politically expedient, it drove home the issue of divisiveness between the two parties. While one side must show a unified front and cheer at every little word, the other must pout and give no quarter.

Maybe it’s been this way longer than I remember, but it seems to me that liberals and conservatives are more polarized and less civil than ever. It seems to me that there was a time that people could have ideological disagreements but still be friendly. Now it seems that if someone doesn’t share your political persuasion they are pariah. A leper. A walking disease.

When did this happen? When did we lose the ability, not only as politicians, but as a people, lose our ability to debate without being shrill? I understand that there was and will always be a segment of the population who will always be shrill, but when did they get the Nation’s ear? When did they become the spokespersons?

This isn’t just a liberal problem, as much of my conservative brethren like to claim. We are every bit as guilty of jumping on bashing-by-rhetoric bandwagons. It’s hard to read some of the comment sections at places like Wizbang! or Ace of Spades because for every intelligent, well thought post, there are two that do nothing but slam the author or another commenter. Is it that hard to argue the merits of something we believe? Why must you acknowledge the “Chimpy McHilterBush” crowd with responses at that level. Why acknowledge that kind of comment at all? Conversely, why must liberals respond to the “Sheehan speaks for the ENTIRE DEMOCRATIC PARTY” crowd? Really, come on. Any level-headed person knows that’s not true.

There is a lunatic fringe in each party. We righties have our Robertsons, lefties have their Sheehans. Is our focus on the theatrical extremisms some kind of escapism? Is the right so blind to think that the left have no politicians of merit? That is, that they have no one who can sway swing voters? It would be political suicide for us to really believe that.

Is the left so consumed with their hatred of the current administration that they cannot see the majority of Americans are very concerned with national security? Have they not yet learned that they will lose votes -- they will lose elections -- based on this issue alone?

I know we can’t all get along. But what happened to discourse? Theater of the absurd is a current M.O., and that’s a real shame.

But really, I want to know, what’s the cause? When did it happen? Discuss.

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