Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Toward a More Civil Union

I am constantly amazed at the immaturity of adults and the nature of campaigns, two things that I’m finding are not mutually exclusive. Having watched now one presidential candidate debate and one vice-presidential candidate debate in which all four participants engaged in a “no, you did,” “no, you did!” forensic exercise of futility, I’m starting to lose faith in adults’ ability to get anything done. Or communicate civilly. Or effectively. (Sorry…I know you know who I’m talking about and if you don’t, just fill in the blank with someone else who says, “also, though,” as if that explains everything.) If you can’t even form a complete sentence with a noun, verb, and maybe even a direct or indirect object, you shouldn’t be allowed to run for anything, let alone a political office. And if the best you can do is tell lies about one another and sling mud and smear one another, then you should all put your toys back and go to your rooms for a collective time out.

It’s getting insane. And this lack of decorum, this lack of respect for others’ values, accomplishments, and opinions is all over television, cable and network alike. Today, I caught the slugfest known as The View. If you don’t know what this program is about, it’s basically five Democrats (an actress, two comedians, and Barbara Walters) and one Republican (someone who competed on a reality show) who argue incessantly, vociferously, and loudly about what’s going on in the news. Sometimes they interview an actor or actress who’s discussing their latest “project” (they used to be called “movies”) or they talk about the latest miracle skin cream or cellulite antidote. But generally, they sit around the kitchen table that they use as their bully pulpit and scream at and over each other about current events. And unless you’ve been living in a cave in Tora Bora for the last year, the news of the day concerns the presidential election with a little bit of the economy thrown in for good measure. But basically, they only discuss the economy in order to place blame at the feet at either the Republicans (the four Democrats) or the Democrats (the one Republican). Today, as with many other days, it got personal, the Democrats loading up on the lone Republican who kept chanting “consorting with terrorists” and “character matters” whenever the subject of one of the candidates came up (his name starts with Barack and ends with Obama) while one of the others intoned “Keating 5” or “deregulation” a thousand times over, as if that was a respectable counter-argument.

By the end of these segments, usually one or more of the women look like they’re going to cry, Barbara Walters is red in the face, and I sit and wonder how they’re going to talk to each other about the miracle cellulite cream if they’re not speaking at all.

At around seven o’clock every night, I watch Hardball. More yelling. More talking over one another. More “I know you are, but what am I?” verbal jousting. This is followed by Keith Olbermann, a man who can really turn a phrase, but who lets it fly when it comes to one of the candidates and not the other.

And don’t get me started on Fox News.

I also watch the Rachel Maddow show and have found that she is the only one of the lot who shows a modicum of class when it comes to discussing current events. Her foil is conservative Pat Buchanan and they go at it, but with dignity and a clear respect for each other’s opinions. It’s the definition of “debate.” Neither one hopes to change the other’s mind, but they listen to each other and respond accordingly. I really hope they can keep it up and that these other jokers on the other cable stations take notice. Civility increases ratings, at least in this house.

I have high hopes for the debate tonight but I know I’m just being silly and na├»ve. In reality, I don’t think it will be any more informative than The View, Hardball, or Keith Olbermann. Supposedly, this will be a “town hall style” debate. Does anyone even know what that means? I’m thinking that it’s the candidates, walking around with mics pinned to their suit jackets, doing folksy and “plain speak” to the people gathered, who supposedly get to ask the questions. But will they get answers? That will be the reason I tune in. Because for the life of me, I can’t understand why someone just can’t simply answer the question “What is your name?” without hyperbole, calling the other candidate’s record into question (or even calling them names), or calling themselves a maverick, patriotic, or an agent of change. Just answer the damn question. “My name is X. And we will do Y. That’s why you should vote for us.”

We’ve got less than a month until the election and my fear is that the level of discourse will sink even lower and that more mud will get slung. There will be more name calling, more supposed “skeletons” dragged out of closets that haven’t been open in twenty, thirty, or forty years, and more snarky sound bites.

And that’s just from the ladies of The View. I can’t even imagine where the candidates will take it.

Maggie Barbieri

1 comment:

  1. I can't bear to watch The View anymore. Why would anyone think a movie star or comedian or reality TV competitor knows enough to tell anyone how to vote?

    I don't like the way the candidates talk about each other either, but I don't suppose that's going to change since that's been going on forever.

    Politics corrupt--and if the candidate hasn't been corrupted yet, which is unlikely because of what you have to do an promise to even become a candidate--trying to get anything he wants done will take him down the path of corruption.

    We're in a world of hurt and don't think any candidate has what it takes to rescue us.