Friday, August 6, 2010

It's Hard Work

After another supremely irritating encounter with a few dittoheads on Facebook, I've decided I'd like to completely reorder the political divide in this country to what it truly is.

Instead of having a battle against liberals vs. conservatives, I propose a debate against:

1. People who realize the world is a complicated place, with many competing interests and ideas, and that actually solving problems requires real thought, commitment, and decisions that are always going to make some people unhappy; and

2. People who want to piss and moan, and offer simplistic solutions to everything, if they offer solutions at all. (One of the people I went off on actually said something like, "so I suppose if we all raised taxes and regulated everything, it would solve the job problem". I told the guy, accurately, that if I was writing a parody of someone with his viewpoint, that's about what I would have said)

This is what drives me absolutely, completely batshit insane about this country and I will come out and say it: why I still support Obama, for all the mistakes he's made (and I think the biggest one is not communicating better). Because Obama falls in to the #1 category. And from what I can see, all of his most vehement detractors fall into the #2 category. When you actually sit down and look through the situation in the country fairly, and look at how we got here without idealogical bias, it's a lot harder to beat up on the guy. In fact, from what I can see, what he has done has been...pretty much exactly what he said he would do, and he won the last election handily. Funny in all this "discussion" of socialism how no one ever talks about that. It seems like that's sorta relevant to me.

And until someone else steps up that really seems like he or she wants to understand the problems facing the country and not just yell and wave articles of faith at them that, in the real world haven't worked out so simply or easily (lower taxes! Freedom! Rah! OK, how low is low enough? What about ballooning the deficit? What about Clinton's tax hike that was partly responsible for balancing the budget? What about the fact that the Laffer curve has not worked out in actual practice? Reaction: Blank stare, or blanket denial. Because, ahem...low taxes!!! Freedom!!!!), that's the way it's going to stay. Because I don't see anybody stepping up on the horizon to replace Obama that I can take seriously. In fact, the mainstream now is people saying things that 10 years ago would have sounded certifiably insane and/or seditious. It's people who want to sit down and think things through that are the big joke. Or worse, people like me are now the ENEMIES OF THE COUNTRY. Right? RIGHT?

What I find absolutely maddening about the state of politics these days is that people don't even have real discussion anymore. The folks I argued with this morning just threw up straw men and argued with THEM. For my part, I pointed out that they obviously hadn't exposed themselves to any sources of information that didn't tell them what they already wanted to hear.

There are, I hope, millions of people in America that are like me: basically moderate, and fed up with the fact that doing things, you know, rationally and pragmatically, doing things not because we believe in them real hard but because they verifiably WORK in practice, is out of fashion now and extremists are taking up all the air. I tend to take the liberal position in arguments just because most of the time, people are so full up with talking points from Fox News that they've never even heard anything else, but really what I want to hear is the ideas bump up against each other and let the best one win. I started seeking out alternate news sources years ago not because I wanted to be convinced I was right, but because I wanted to hear the debate, and I realized I was being prevented from hearing it!

Nearly everything I saw or heard in the media where two sides squared off against each other was carefully choreographed so that I basically learned...nothing. To actually figure out what was going on, I had to dig very hard to find real logical, rational point-counterpoint that withstood critical thought. And when I did that I realized a lot of things I had accepted because "everyone knew" they were true -- from the "liberal media" thing all the way down...was a pile of unadulterated crap designed to keep us all at each others' throats. And after 7 or 8 years of this, with the evidence of it piling up all around us, I cannot understand why more people still fall for it. The only explanation I can think of is people cannot stand to be wrong (myself, I would desperately love to be wrong about this, but nearly all the evidence so far points the other way, unfortunately). And all I can say to that is, I wish more people spent some time alone thinking trying to disprove their own point to themselves, before trying to prove it to someone else.

I know, what? Who does that?

Now we're a nation of people that bemoan how polarized we've become, while at the same time trashing the very ideal that enabled us to come together in the first place; the idea that diversity and tolerance are good, and that the other guy might have a point, and by considering that person's unique perspective, we make the country stronger. That's how we GOT here, people. It wasn't from all getting in our little idealogical teepees and closing our ears and crying, like Eddie Murphy in TRADING PLACES, "yah, yah, yah, I'm not listening to you!"


  1. You and I have talked about this before and I pretty much agree with your assessment. As far as sources for legitimate news goes, the problem with the "liberal media" is that declining revenues in advertising have forced newspapers and network news (which still has much higher ratings than cable outlets) to abandon serious journalism (reporting and exploring all sides of issues) lest they be accused of being to lefty. The conservatives have long had a much better organized media presence and by a lockstep series of talking points via radio, TV, and print have come to dictate the news cycle more than people realize.

  2. Someone once said that for every problem there's a very simple solution--one that won't work.
    One thing that used to bug me when I had a day job were the loyal union members who voted Republican. I was once at a technical training session where I found that some of my "classmates" would schedule their field work to allow them to tune in Rush Limbaugh on the company truck radio. Not that the Democrats are that good for the working class, but they're a heck of a lot better than the GOP. And if you want an earful, just ask Pat about how the Democrats need a big dose of decisiveness and even meanness to deal with the Republican loudmouths. As an executive said once in a different context, "Send me a bastard who's a real sonofabitch!"

  3. But wait, Warren, aren't the poor conservatives just counter-balancing the pervasive liberal bias to the media? I mean, the media that every liberal I know loathes with a passion?

  4. Bob --

    That's a great point. And now that I think of it actually I can think of one person who could have conceivably done a better job than Barack Obama, and that is Hillary Clinton. My opinion is that he's done a really good job at focusing on the policy, but he's done a poor job communicating what he's actually doing. It's hard to imagine Hillary sitting still for this nonsense.