Monday, February 04, 2019

Oh, Fer Cryin' Out Loud ...

Republicans have taken up a new battle cry, that Bernie Sanders was screwed out of the election in '16 by the DNC. This apparently is being used as proof of how corrupt Democrats are, to which I will offer the following rebuttal.

Well, duh.

What is interesting is that GOP bleating about Bernie ramps up a notch every time new information about how crooked, devious, corrupt, and generally evil the current administration is. Almost as if they were trying to deflect attention  away from something ...

But that's not the point of this, so anybody looking to get their knickers in a twist ... well, settle down. I'll get to it.

Gallons -- tanker loads -- of ink has been spilled, from both left and right, talking about the polarization in our politics of late. And these people are correct. However, there is another aspect to this unsavory business that isn't getting as much attention, and that is this scorched-earth approach taken by many commentators, from top-tier folks such as Andrew Sullivan, Ana Navaro, Robert Reich, et al on down to random Twitter screechers from their respective shriek factories.

It's getting to the point that folks are getting nervous about saying anything because any error, any deviation from the norm, is immediately weaponized and hammered back at them relentlessly. Even innocent typos are being thrown back in peoples' faces as proof that they are somehow "less than."

It's absurd. It's not only counter-productive, it's non-productive. It does not open the door for debate; rather, it forces everyone into a defensive crouch in their respective corners.

It doesn't have to be this way, though. Recently, one of the conservative members in a Facebook group in which I participate semi-regularly posted a thought experiment about offering health-care professionals a way to get their medical education paid for in exchange for public service. Usually this would elicit the following responses:

  • Since it was a conservative who posted it, liberals would immediately start shouting about how it's all going to the 1% and trump is an ignorant dolt and all conservatives are mindless bigots (in fairness, if the original poster had been a liberal the shrieking would have been about how all liberals are idiots and full of hate and have no understanding of how the world really works).
  • Conservatives would respond by shouting about how the liberals were being intolerant and refusing to be objective.
  • One or two people might make a token stab at bring things back around to a "reasoned debate" level, but would fail miserably because of the endorphins produced by shitting on peoples' heads.
  • At some point the topic would shift from the health care debate to Russian election interference and whether it really happened or is just a fever dream of liberals, and trump/Pelosi/Schumer/McConnell being completely amoral hacks, and on and on and on ...

However, in this instance, what transpired was shocking. Stunning, even. Instead of the usual shriekery, name-calling, diversion, digression, personal attacks, and general demagoguery, I saw:

  • One commenter saying that the proposal was flawed in that it wasn't offering a high enough salary for the medics. Not in an accusatory way, but in an "hey, this is a good idea, but it needs this tweak" manner.
  • Another suggested that we could used the National Guard as a model for this, using a volunteer force that serves on a periodic basis instead of asking people to make a full-time commitment that would last years (possibly decades).
  • A third pointed out that, while this was a good idea, it was going to be a drop in the bucket unless we got price-gouging from Big Pharma under control.

And many more ... the thread went on for hours like this. And what was even more surprising is that, when someone did state something in error, instead of the folks on the other side using it as ammunition to try to destroy that person, they were instead politely corrected ... and the debate moved forward.

It was beautiful. And what we ended up with was multifold: on the concrete side, an eminently sensible and workable way to bring down health care costs, and a "softer" accomplishment of making everyone in the group feel like they had been given a respectful hearing ... even if, ultimately, their suggestion was not adopted.

Look, unless we stop with the back-stabbing, punching, kicking, eye-gouging, unless we quit trying to turn peoples' own words into weapons to be used against them, we will make absolutely no progress in this country. Sure, in 2020 we may get rid of trump, but in this sort of polarized atmosphere all this means is that we'll get another one. It could be another Republican, it could be a Democrat, conservative or liberal. It doesn't matter ... we will end up with yet another full-of-shit demagogue, and our country will teeter ever more precipitously on the brink of democratic ruin.

So, people. Instead of yelling at each other, talk to each other. Neither side has a monopoly on the truth. Both sides are as guilty as the other of obfuscating facts, engaging in spin, and being apologists for their standard bearer (whoever he or she might be at that particular moment). The thing is, despite these flaws, there are good ideas on both sides as to how to (to borrow a phrase) make America great again.

And no, this does NOT mean I support trump.

I gotta lie down.

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