The thing I hate most about partisan politics, particularly during campaign season, is the rampant hypocrisy. Democratic candidate or Republican, doesn’t matter, all are guilty of using one standard for themselves and another for their opponent. McCain is taking a beating today for misrepresenting current troop levels in Iraq; a couple of weeks ago it was Obama getting thumped for a momentary memory lapse regarding Iran and its status as a threat to regional stability and American security. McCain confused "Sunni" and "Shiite" while Obama told us we need more Arabic translators in Afghanistan. And both McCain and Obama have given each other repeated blows to the head for what endorsing clergy have said.
You don’t even need to be on the opposite side of the aisle to earn a second standard. HRC came under fire for claiming to have come under fire and BHO for claiming an uncle helped to liberate Auschwitz. Barack gets lit up because Michelle comes across as critical of the United States and unpatriotic while Hillary takes a shot for Bill’s comments about Obama’s "fairy tale" opposition to the war.
It’s no wonder that we can’t all get along. The contentious and fractious state of current politics degrades us all. It’s the leading cause of the apathy and atrophy of the American body politic. Seriously, listening to what passes as dialogue between the parties is about as enjoyable as listening to two three year-olds squabble over who first touched whom. And we can’t figure out why nearly 4 in 10 eligible voters can’t be bothered to care enough to vote? Come on.
I’m not advocating self-censorship here but I am a big fan of self-restraint. How about this - for those of you on the religious right, try turning the other cheek every once in awhile? And for those on the open-minded left, try seeing the issue from the other side instead of reacting to every potential affront.
Sure it feels great to spit a bit of vitriol to relieve the frustration. And no one is above a little self-righteous indignation. Heck, I often find it therapeutic. But the sad fact is that by blindly cheering for your side while loudly shouting down the other, we only make it harder to hear.
Let’s focus on what we have in common instead of what makes us different. Look for shared interest instead of self interest; seek a gain for all parties instead of a win for one.
The way this general election is shaping up, it really won’t matter much who wins. Okay, I know that it will matter for Iraq, the Iraqi people, and our troops deployed there, but beyond that, we’re likely to end up with same sad stalemate we have now. And another four years will pass without the will of the People being heard.
Call me a hopeful skeptic, but I’m afraid our leaders lack the courage to relinquish the news-cycle by news-cycle attack cycle. Unless and until we demonstrate our intolerance for intolerance, it will continue to be politics as usual. They need to be encouraged to take the offensive on issues of strategic importance, not the trivial BS that permeates their daily news briefings. They need to be encouraged to take the high road, even if it means – actually, particularly when it means - that they forgo an opportunity to embarrass their opponent. They need to be reminded that the fundamental difference between a politician and a statesman is civility. They need to be given an example of how to behave; we need to set that example.
Bi-partisanship v. obstructionism, collaboration v. opposition, in-this-together v. screw you, the future of American politics starts here, starts now. In the immortal words of John Lennon "You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one. I hope someday you will join us, and the world will live as one."