Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Politics

Well, it's high election season, which means SNL's Weekend Update is slightly more tired (did all of the good political jokes already get drilled for and burned up at The Daily Show and The Colbert Report?) and the leader of the free world has to divide his time between ensuring the safety of our embassies and shaking hands with vetted blue collar workers. Do I like this season?

*Sigh.* Maybe?

Politics is a term that is, like rhetoric, almost always used in a derogatory sense by lay thinkers. There's something down-and-dirty about the idea of having to go out and ask for people's votes, appealing, some say, to the lowest common denominator, that is, when the politicians aren't already appealing to the extremes of their own party during a primary. There's a lot of mucking around with broadly painted stereotypes, isolated incidents being expanded into character insight, hate and fear wielded like bludgeoning batons. It becomes like that old cynical saw about school spirit: excessive emotion on insignificant matters, like how close a vice president sits to a constituent, or the dumb one-off lines a candidate says in more or less private settings. There is, perhaps, a glut of information about what are ultimately insignificant things. Most ironically, the presidential election, because of the sheer numbers of voters and then because of the pre-communication age system of the electoral college, becomes the election that we know the most about and have the least say in.

But I love talking about ideas of politics. What do we, as a nation, as a group of people trying to work out consensus though contention, think about "the issues"? What issues do we even care about? Remember when everyone used to talk about guns in schools? There's just not the same level of discussion that there used to be. This is definitively a more "domestic issues" kind of election than 2008 was, when we needed to repair our international reputation. Economy is king, with a few domestic social issues thrown in. I'd love to hear more about which values we think are most important in our society: is security most important, or is entrepreneurial spirit? Should Latinos identify more with Republicans because of social issues or Democrats because of fiscal? What role should government have in something as private as reproductive health? These are all fun, West Wing-y questions that I like to see people, even ordinary people on the bus, thinking about. It's like the Christmas season of political thought.

In short, when I watch cable news, I dislike politics; when I listen to Shields and Brooks, I like politics.

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