October 22, 2004

I'm Getting Tired Of This....

T'other night I was chatting with some folks from Church and the subject swung round to politics. As in almost every such conversation I've had lately, the Three Pillars of Election Wisdom quickly made their appearance. To wit:

1.) The country is more polarized than ever before,
2.) Political campaigning has hit an all-time low in civility, and
3.) Election fraud is at an all-time high.

With all due respect, this is a load of fetid dingoes' kidneys.

First, people who think the current red-blue social division is bad evidently have never heard of the Civil War. Or the Revolution, for that matter, in which members of all classes of society lined up on both the Continental and the Tory sides. Or even the 60's, for Pete's sake. In fact, I'd be rather hard pressed to think of a period in the Nation's history in which some social or political issue or issues wasn't generating sharp rifts in opinion. This isn't a problem, it's who we are, people.

Second, would someone kindly direct me to that historical election cycle when nobody attacked their opponent, but instead did nothing but highlight their own worthiness for office? Anybody? Anybody? Bueller? Name any presidential candidate you like and with a few clicks on Google I'll find a choice assortment of lies, accusations, slanders and character assassination, the majority of which is likely to meet or exceed anything you see today in terms of invective. This ain't beanbag. And to my knowledge, Mr. Rogers never ran for office.

Third, nobody invented voter fraud in 2000. It only appeared on the Nation's radar screen because the election was so close that year. And it's still on the radar simply because this year's election may be pretty close too. But it's nothing new. I grew up in Texas and used to hear the old joke about the boy sitting on the court house steps in 1960 crying his eyes out. Someone asked the boy why he was so upset and he said, "Because my pa just voted for Kennedy." The man then asked why that should make the boy cry and he said, "Because my pa has been dead for five years!" Other examples of this sort of thing abound through history. By all means, we should do everything we can to stop such shenanigans, but let's not pretend they're a Modern Eeeevil.

All of these talking points, which I suppose are meant to make the speaker sound both informed and caring, really represent a kind of political romantic primativism, a yearning for a mythical Golden Age. Like all such movements, they are, in fact, built on historical ignorance and unrealistic expectations about human nature.

Less of it, please. It's fine to be concerned about problems. But take the time to figure out if something really is a problem, and if so, how much of one, before you start getting all Alan Alda-y about it.

Posted by Robert at October 22, 2004 11:24 AM | TrackBack

I've always wondered about the whole "unity" thing, why it is ever touted as a positive.

It's kind of like the Japanese civil wars -- the history reads that one warlord eventually "unified" the country, when what they really mean is that one guy's army slaughtered the other guy's army. See also the Borg. Or the USSR.

What happened to independence? Multiplicity of views? Live free or die?

Posted by: George at October 22, 2004 11:45 AM

Speaking of Alan Alda, I saw an ad on TV for The West Wing in which it appears that Alan Alda will be the Republican candidate for President later this season. Odd choice.

Posted by: JohnL at October 22, 2004 03:44 PM

Yup--it is rather frustrating.

Indeed, I wrote a bit about it yesterday, at least in terms of the "divided like never before" argument: http://www.poliblogger.com/index.php?p=5044

Posted by: Steven Taylor at October 22, 2004 05:33 PM
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