Changing the Political Discourse

Marty Kaplan writes a good article looking at the violence and extremism in American political discourse and the consequences it can bring.

In general, it brings me back to my reasons for starting this blog, which centered on fostering informed and clear discussions on topics. I sadly have not been writing enough on here lately, even though there has been plenty to talk about.

In a lot of ways, I have been trying to distance myself from thinking too much about politics or the problems we face as a country, because the rhetoric and strategies of politicians on both sides of the aisle just makes me feel frustrated and upset with no outlet. The discussion has moved so far from my personal interests in clarification of the issues, fair inquiry into options and implications, and rational assessment and decision making.

I really don’t understand why we can’t have rational discussions on a wide variety of topics, from economics to health care reform. These shouldn’t be partisan issues; we all have a vested interest in finding the most agreeable solutions. People argue that it’s bad politics. That Americans only get passionate about hardliners, but I think that’s BS. I know there are thousands of people like me out there who want to care and want to have a reasonable conversation.

However, today politicians, pundits, and Americans have decided to disagree before even defining what we are talking about or looking at evidence presented by experts (and there ARE experts in most fields, who DO know better than the Average Joe (Personal note: it’s unfortunate that reality has a heavy liberal bias…joke…well, not really)).

Thanks, folks. For making us all dumber.

If there are disagreements, they should come to light after a clear discussion and exploration of various options. I’m fine if we fundamentally disagree on the trade-offs made by our various options (i.e. taxes vs. government benefits), but nobody is even talking about those trade-offs. All sides want to have their cake and eat it too, and sadly the losers are reality and our well being. This also leads to the vehemence and outrage expressed on either side.

Don’t get me wrong. I get frustrated too but mostly because of all the shouting in the room. When did facts, or at least experts best guesses at facts, stop mattering? When did we base all our opinions on assumptions made before any discussion begins?

Can we please start using inside voices again? It might not be good entertainment, but I think we clearly need it, and I wish political strategists would be willing to give it a try. I think they’d be surprised at the results.

It's not like these guys are helping any either.


This all brought to mind a GREAT op-ed by David Brooks in the New York Times recently. I don’t always agree with him, but he is a reasonable guy, and this is certainly one of his best. This article brought to mind a discussion I had in a grad school class concerning ‘de-regulation,’ and essentially how the entire idea is bunk. The question should always regard ‘RE-regulation,’ and our constant efforts to improve and advance government policy. Sometimes that might mean more or less, but every situation is different. Party hardliners (basically anybody today) simply take their Deregulation stance into every fight, but there is no one size fits all. How hard is that to remember?

The goal should always be BETTER governance. Quoting the Marty Kaplan article above:

‘”Government is the problem,” said Ronald Reagan. He was wrong. The problem is bad government, and the job of every generation is to make it work better, not to drive a stake through its heart.’

Add that to the list of reasons I dislike Ronald Reagan.

Which one?


About Tony

Lives in Austin, Texas and likes music, art, philosophy, and random stuff.
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