In recent weeks many folks have chronically complained to me about gridlock in Washington. They denounce acrimonious debate and snivel about stubbornness in political positions.
To which I reply “Ain’t it beautiful!”
I’m not being snide, which means I must need more caffeine this morning. We are witnessing the most spectacular transformation of American and world politics, launched by giving every man, woman and transvestite a voice. In the bad old days, people received political information from three very incestuous television broadcast networks (ABC, NBC and the Communist Broadcasting System) and one or two local papers. This created monolithic public perspective about what Congress did and the relationship between citizens and government. The very politically aware among us voraciously read magazines, knowing that the daily pap provided by paid politicos (a.k.a. anchormen) was intellectually deficient. Yet outside of your immediate circle of friends and family (who likely were raised with similar values), you had few people with which to exchange ideas, data, policy and opinions.
With the rise of talk radio, media misinformation sedation died. Like or loath radio pundits, disenfranchised people found their call-in voices, adding to political dialogue. With the explosion of the Internet, everyone turned into a publisher, opinion maker and pundit. They we able to acquire, analyze and report on previously unavailable or obscure data and perspective. They engaged like- and different-minded people, and in the process used their new information riches to strip clean the thinning veneer of others’ arguments. American political discourse has thus speedily cleaved a deeply divided nation with people who want to be left alone in one camp (we’ll call them constitutionalist) and those who want government to arbitrate all decisions and allocate all monies (we’ll call these people thieves, or Obama supporters … the difference is often vague).
What makes this beautiful is intellectual Darwinistic intercourse (pull your mind out of the gutter). Darwinism had two major concepts, those being survival of the fittest and the constant churning of the gene pool. Restricted to political mastication, the rapid mixing and exchange of ideas and insults brings many new and different levels of understanding. Living in San Francisco, I now understand why most liberals like government programs (though I disagree with their assessment of success or constitutional validity). When I took some local, red diaper babies to an NRA fun shoot, they came away with a new perspective on gun owners and gun rights (they were no longer scared of guns or middle-aged, white, pot-bellied NRA types). Without this new and constant orgy of opinion, national “progress” would have continued to be guided by the political-media complex, an evil well avoided.
My media friends hate it when I gleefully announce their growing irrelevancy.
Not all debate has to be nasty. One of my best friends in this cold, gray world disagrees with me on nearly everything political, yet we go out of our way to have long dinners and politely debate until waiters forcefully drag us to our cars. But there is nothing wrong with berating the opinions of opponents, or your opponents themselves, if their opinions are extracted from their southern-most orifice. There is no sin in calling a socialist such, or asserting that their polices are un-American, insane, counterproductive, anti-freedom and morally reprehensible … you just have to be ready to back-up those points.
Be not ashamed to vocally disagree. In fact, wallow in the newfound freedom of global argument and dissent. Just be sure to vote for whoever favors free and open debate, otherwise they will be motivated to end it.