U.S. Political Dialogue and Debate
In the Eisenhower-Kennedy/Johnson-Nixon era, our national political debate took place in a respectful atmosphere, where differing ideas were contested on their merits. But now it seems the atmosphere has been poisoned by ideology, anger, alienation, and fear to the extent that the issues are no longer debated, but are mainly resolved by partisan voting power. And we feel that partisan voting is a relatively sterile process that overlooks our creative abilities to meet everyone’s needs.
It well may be that the pivotal issues of today will not be decided until after the 2020 election, and we trust that this web site can be helpful in influencing that election in a positive way. But, we also wish that U.S. political debate could more closely reflect the fundamentals that unite us. To that end, we offer our observations on the existing dialogue and debate, not to point fingers or place blame, but to promote awareness and understanding of the current process, that we might choose to broaden our attitudes and temper our rhetoric.
There is an old saying: “Where there’s smoke, there’s fire.” It infers that when someone makes a critical statement, there is likely some truth to it. The mere existence of criticism used to color our opinion of the person or event being criticized.
But, movement conservatism and the Trump presidency has changed the dynamic. Anything goes. Anything and everything that opponents do is open to condemnation. Opposition is falsely demonized as traitorous to our country. Issues are presented in black and white terms that leave no room for discussion. And the condemnation and demonization is repeated over and over again.
The rhetoric has been amplified and routinized by talk radio, which uses polarization as an audience builder. Polarization pays. But persistent anti-government and anti-social messaging has chilled and muted the political debate.
Campaign Financing, Lobbying, and the Revolving Door
We believe that political campaigns should be financed entirely by government money.
A formerly powerful figure in California politics, Jesse Unruh, is responsible for the famous quote: “Money is the mother’s milk of politics.” As such, it taints the political debate. Election campaigns depend on it, and it supports legislative lobbying. It buys influence.
And then there’s the influence that can be bought just through the opportunity for a politician or administrator to join a lobbying organization when he or she retires or is defeated for re-election.
In 2010, the United States Supreme Court issued a landmark decision in the Citizens United v. FECcase. That decision opens the door to unlimited corporate financing of political campaign communications.
Distortion of Facts
It’s a widely acknowledged and understood practice to “spin” facts about an issue or a situation to support one’s position. But it appears to us that it has now become routine in conservative circles to present “facts” with no basis in truth, as exemplified by Donald Trump’s serial untruths.
Perhaps the most persistent example of false facts is the continuing promotion of “supply-side” or “trickle-down” economics to justify tax cuts or to argue against tax increases. It started during the Reagan administration. But there is no evidence to support the proposition that taxation promotes or detracts from economic growth.
Recently, conservatives have been labeling things they don’t like as “job-killers,” while things they like are branded “job-creators,” without offering a bit of evidence to support either claim – unless it’s a quote from the Heritage Foundation or the Hoover Institute.
And the two approaches can be combined: increasing taxes on the wealthy is declared to be increasing taxes on “small business owners” who will cut jobs if their taxes are raised. But almost all small business owners are hurt by cutting taxes and benefit from tax hikes.
Alternative Communication Vehicles
Perhaps an informed and aware citizenry will blunt the effect of undemocratic political messaging. Otherwise, those with the money to create the loudest and most repetitious anti-social and anti-government messaging will have an undue and undemocratic influence on our political processes.
We hope and trust that the Internet and local community interchange of facts and ideas will continue and grow as a diverse and independent analysis and information source and vehicle for political debate and discussion.