Politics in our democracy has earned its reputation as a "blood sport." It's been ugly from the beginning of our history. It will likely be that way through its demise if that day ever comes. But there is something more surreal about the degenerated public discourse this election cycle. Like Lewis Carroll's 1865 novel, Alice in Wonderland, logic has been replaced with nonsense. And similar to the peculiar creatures living down the rabbit hole, many of the characters playing the candidate's role this year seem to thrive on the inane.
If we didn't know better we could swear we are witnessing a fantasy play where facts are interpretive and truth is subjective. Contradictory statements are dismissed or worse yet, accepted by a yawning and disenfranchised electorate who act like bystanders in their own game.
It feels like we have become a collectively numb public, anesthetized with endless doses of policy pabulum, purposely twisting of opponent's statements and vitriol that is off the charts. The meanness in the air is stifling. Unfortunately, not all but way too many of us watch from the sidelines not demanding real discussion about real issues confronting our democracy.
The time is long overdue to rewrite the rules of engagement. What is at stake is certainly greater than replacing the NFL substitute refs with the pros. We need, as responsible citizens, to demand truth in the policy positions being advanced by those seeking to obtain our vote, those seeking to hold a public trust.
But the rules will not change if don't demand it. We are days away from the first presidential debates, little more than a month away from the November election, and far too many of the specifics of how the next president will conduct our nation's business remains elusive in the critical areas of job creation, deficit reduction, environment and energy independence.
Speaking about being on the sidelines, is it any wonder trillions of dollars available for reinvestment in our people and our infrastructure are uncommitted awaiting clarity and predictability about what will happen with health care reform and the future structure of the compacts we have created through Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid?
It was a great political catch phrase some 30-plus years ago that government is not the solution; government is the problem. Snap! Reality: Government is neither.
The truth is government is not the enemy. Government and the private sector are partners in an ever-changing economic landscape, leaning more liberal or more conservative as warranted by the fiscal circumstances existing at the time.
As responsible participants in our own democracy, exercising our vote is paramount. Doing so as informed as we can be cutting through the spin is critical. Not allowing the negative demagoguery to overwhelm us is essential.
We are a divided nation. No doubt we are split almost down the middle. There are reasons we have come to this place. Jonathan Haidt's brilliant new book The Righteous Mind spells out in extraordinary fashion "why good people are divided by politics and religion."
Let's insist good ideas are the ones implemented regardless of who generated them. Reward politicians who accept compromise when it serves a national end. Support candidates who exercise civility. Elect individuals no matter their party, who have made a commitment to truth. Practice is over. It's time to put on our pads, strap on our helmets and take the field. Watch out for rabbit holes!
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