So as much as I love writing, I’ve been oddly remiss on blogging. There are many reasons for this. The main one being that I have to blog on current events three times a week for work, so I use up all of my relevant material there. Plus, there’s only so much pressure I can feel about deadlines before shutting down. I also don’t really like the short-form format of most blogs. I saw somewhere that the best blogs should be 500 words or less. While there is a lot you can get across in 500 words or less, when I write for myself, I’m usually trying to work through thoughts or figure out problems or ruminate on my job. These are things that don’t normally limit themselves to 500 words or less. What can I say. I’m long-winded.
So let’s try something new. I’m going to start blogging twice a month but in long form. Relationships, politics, growing up, family. It’s all fair game. There will also be shorter entries, I’m sure. But I started this blog as a place for my thoughts and I want to get back to that. Here we go…
As a public policy analyst, I deal with politics and political debate all day. From 8-5. As such, I have had a front row seat for the complete and utter breakdown in reason and sanity that occurred both in Congress and in the general populace. People who should be focused on what’s best for their constituents instead decided to focus on maintaining increasing polarized positions to score political points in an electorate that’s marked by ever more extreme positions.
The problem is on both sides of the aisle as far as I can tell. But the group that embodies these extreme positions with an absurd amount of pride is the Tea Party. Please understand, I know that many of the people who identify with the Tea Party will not fall into the following description/rant so please forgive my generalizations from this point forward.
From what I can tell of the Tea Party, from the media reports to the protests that I’ve attended, many members are using the increasing reach of the government to justify racist and ignorant positions. Calling Pres. Obama a “socialist tyrant”? Please. The majority of the programs implemented by his Administration are so far from socialist that it’s just absurd to go there. Hanging the President in effigy while calling yourself a patriot? There is nothing patriotic about hanging your President in effigy.
Part of me identifies with them. It does make sense to me to have more powers delegated to the states than the federal government. But at the same time, we are no longer a loose confederation of individual states. We have become far more united than we were at our founding and, because of that, there is definitely a place for more federal government in state politics.
But, actual content of the debates aside, I really feel like there is one overarching reason why the debate this year became so nasty. People have lost the ability to see shades of grey in politics. People no longer understand the difference between “I’m right” and “Everyone else is wrong.” All politics is based on opinion. It’s hard to recognize that when you’re trying to solve massive problems that affect the well-being of millions of possible but that’s why they call it a “political opinion.”
Conservatives legitimately believe that the way to help the most people is for the federal government to butt out and to let markets work and that government intervention prevents innovation. Liberals legitimately believe that markets can be manipulated and are fundamentally flawed so the best way to help the most people is through some government intervention. And you know what, both sides have a point! Both political philosophies have been shown to work. Both political philosophies have pros. And both political philosophies have cons.
Where did the understanding that the world is not black and white go? What happened over the past couple of years that convinced people of their inherent rightness? There are two sides to every argument. No exceptions. None. And the answer that’s best for all is usually somewhere in between the two extremes. That’s where reasoned debate comes in. Reasoned debate is how we move forward. Reasoned debate is how we come to have a better understanding of the other side.
So here’s my challenge to all lawmakers and everyone who wants to be a lawmaker. Don’t stop listening. Ever. Don’t stop trying to understand where your opponent is coming from. Don’t stop trying to come to a consensus. Just because you may have the good fortune to be in the majority, it doesn’t mean that everyone agrees with you. And you never know who may have the next great idea. Please. Can we have some return to civility?