Wednesday, May 23, 2007

My Hyde Park Soapbox - Election Year Politics

I don't know if I was simply oblivious to the political scene until the last 20 years or so, but I simply do not remember there previously being the great chasm between left and right as exists (to our detriment) today. There were certainly fundamental ideological differences, but isn't this polarization between political parties a fairly recent phenomenon?

Where did this come from? Where did it begin? Was it the Vietnam war, Watergate, the "vast right wing conspiracy", the interminable and unfruitful Clinton investigations, the blue dress, talk radio, the Iraq war, the weight given to opinion polls, the omnipresent and biased media, or the American penchant for treating every familiar face as a celebrity and their every word as gospel?

The numbers of Democrats and Republicans are fairly evenly matched. On November 6, 2006, reported: "The latest ABC News/Wash Post poll has Democrats leading Republicans 53 to 43 percent among registered voters." So, take an unscientific approach and say roughly half the country is Democrat and half Republican, and then look at the issues that unite and divide the two parties. Now try to find something - anything - in the mainstream media or in online opinion that will allow those two factions to agree. I dare you.

Whatever your position on any issue -- half of the country thinks you're completely nuts and certainly won't hesitate to say it. Disagreement and discord will rule the airwaves and all hope of consensus is gone.

Republicans speak only to fellow elephants, Democrats to their faithful donkey herds, and the independent is rarely, if ever, given an opportunity to find out what ANY candidate really thinks about an issue or a potential course of action.

Almost without exception, our candidates and "party leaders" say only what they are told their constituents want to hear -- what their focus groups and professional manipulators assure them will work well with a particular target audience. How often is that audience NOT comprised of the candidate's own party members?

Even in a forum designed to encourage forthright speech and debate we still hear only the tested formulas, the phrases that have been prepared and polished according to all the sleazy principles of Madison Avenue marketing success. Every word is carefully crafted to push the right buttons for that audience at that time. It's all so slick, so packaged, so meaningless.

Does a candidate EVER formulate his/her own thoughts and speak those thoughts, or are we hearing a 25-year-old Ivy League speech writer's version of what will play best on the six o'clock news?

I look at the field of candidates - all 150 of 'em - and shake my little blond head.

Our country doesn't need in the Oval Office an articulate, charismatic puppet whose strings are pulled by party chairs with bottomless financial resources that will essentially purchase the presidency. We don't need someone who only mouths approved propaganda generated by polling numbers and marketing techniques.

America needs a giant right now. We have critical issues on domestic and foreign fronts, and we need a candidate with a giant brain, a diplomat, a political pragmatist who can also claim integrity and honesty... someone with charisma enough to unite disparate factions. We need a person of character and conviction who can bring to the table enough imagination and creativity to pull this country up out of the quagmire of polarization and the cheap, small-minded, self-serving non-solutions we've been living with.

Again, I look at the field of candidates and shake my head.

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