5.15.2003

 
A friend of mine told me this story the other day, and it make me hang my head and shake it just a little bit.

Apparently someone he knows, a blogger, talked the other day about his reaction to hearing the George W. Bush had decided to play cowboy and take an unnecessary trip out to aircraft carrier, mostly because W had always wanted to. My friend tells me his initial reaction was one of disgust, before he realized that if he held the presidency, he would do the exact same thing, and so would I. If I were the commander-in-chief, you can bet your ass I’d take some time in an F-14 and beg to make a trap on a flat top. Anyway, this guy, after stepping back a minute, realized he had fallen prey to partisanship, that because he generally doesn’t agree with W on many things, he had started judging his actions before ever really considering the actions on their own. In this sense then, he endorsed something done by the president and admitted his wrong at that matter.

To this post he added a photo of W still in flight gear that he had found on a web site some where out there. Turns out this site belonged to a rather conservative fellow who took exception to this blogger’s statement that he doesn’t unconditionally support W and that he doesn’t like him all that much and decided to change the file name for the picture of W and replaced that photo with one of President Clinton and Monica Lewinsky.

Maybe something of a chuckle chuckle story, but really, it upsets me more than anything else.

During the mess occurring at the end of the year 2000 stemming out of that year’s presidential election, I remember a number of pundits pondering what ultimately would fall out of the situation, of a potential Constitutional crisis, or a destruction of faith in American politics, or the revelation that everyone had overreacted. I couldn’t decide what I thought about the whole thing other than I thought that all of Gore’s votes had not entered the count but that Bush had still won the election and would ultimately win the election, regardless of the political or judicial beams supporting that result.

Some two and half years later, I think I have a solid hold on what might be the worst consequence of the election and aftermath: the rampant partisanship that appears, in my humble opinion, to be slowly strangling the life out of our modern democracy.

Certainly the election does not hold the sole responsibility for the current state of things, but it must have set the stage for its current manifestation, a catalyst that could cause havoc under the right situations.

Like a national crisis that drives an entire nation inward and causes a people to build walls against the outside world that knocked down two towers and a very important symbol of their prosperity. Like an inevitable downturn in an economy that rode far too high with too little support for far too long that required a scapegoat. Like a people grown accustomed to prosperity and desirous of a cut of that success, even though their government couldn’t necessarily afford to give that money back. Like midterm elections that wrest the control of the Congress from the political party still smarting at the, in their eye, unjust loss of the presidency. Like a determination for war on very uncertain international ground and a quick and relatively easy victory that seemed, at least to some people, to justify acting militarily, even on such uncertain grounds for justification.

Like a cowboy president who won election in a nation of 300 million people by a margin of anywhere from a few hundred to a couple thousand votes acting like he had blown away the competition and earned a national mandate to act, and like a people scarred by terrorism acting like they had given this president such a mandate.

It has largely died down, but during full-scale operations in Iraq, every Saturday a largish group of people assembled out by the local shopping center to voice their disagreement with the war with signs reading “No blood for oil,” as though this country’s petroleum interests constituted the only grounds for action. Just a hundred yards from them, another group, appropriating extremely large American flags, as though they stood unqualified in the right, assembled to show their support for the administration’s action. Every week, things degraded into a shouting match, with each group finding itself completely capable of confidently supporting their view and instead feeling the need to attack those who disagreed.

The Democratic Party exists in a state of complete disarray, and they have lost any torch they could carry to try to lead this nation in the direction they want to go. All they have managed to do in the last year is lob verbal assaults at anything Republican, anything George W. Bush, even actions they ostensibly would support under traditional political theories. The Republican Party, still enjoying the political capital from Iraq and all the chips they have taken from the Democrats like candy from a baby, simply sit back and generally brush off the Democrats because they don’t really have to pay them any attention and they don’t have to worry about fighting their own battles.

Why? Because political debate in this country has virtually disappeared in this country and a shouting match between debaters where everyone just lobs volleys at each other and pulls up the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal though it no longer means a damn thing to any of us has replaced meaningful intelligent debate. We don’t sit back any more as the loyal opposition to the president while taking the occasional pot shot here and there; we call the current president an idiotic incompetent hell bent on avenging daddy’s mistake instead of recognizing that to a great extent, George W. Bush is exactly the kind of president this country always wants: confident, assertive, affable and determined to do what he thinks is right.

I have grown so tired of it all that I find myself perilously close to becoming something I hate, someone uninterested in the world surrounding me, of someone who either votes without actually investigating the candidates or, worse, who does not vote at all. I am tired of liberals wanting to blame their elected leaders and I am tired of seeing called unpatriotic just because they don’t agree with the sitting administration.

I have seriously started to fear that the future viability of our respect-based democracy is in peril. Something needs to happen soon to get people thinking first and then reacting, instead of reacting without any thought at all.