Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Do Candidates for Public Office always have to resemble Piranhas?

Politics is ugly.  There is a lot of passive/aggressive behavior lying just beneath the surface too.  During the middle of the last century there was a veneer of civility that provided just a slight softening of the rhetoric.  You could sense the vitriol, but it wan't just thrown out there, but couched in nicer terms with a softer, more civil voice.

There is no question that earlier practice of politics in America was extremely crude and lacked any real interest in truth.  It seemed actually to thrive on emotional name-calling and broad insults designed to anger the foe and inspire smiles, cheering and clapping by those on your side.

I would suggest that there was a conscious effort to "refine" the political rhetoric as we reached into the middle part of the 20th Century.  I always felt that an effort was being put forth to come across to the public as "civilized" in both action and speech...even as the comments sent us all to the dictionaries to determine just how great an insult had just been brandished, albeit by inference or innuendo.

And even as the battles waged at periscope depth, there was what seemed to be genuine friendships among those on opposite sides.  As in the courts, folks could argue emotionally and feverishly one against another, yet sit down and share a drink and good conversation as dinner was served with your erstwhile foe.

Today, rare indeed is a friendship...or even acquaintanceship...that crosses ideological lines, even after the close of the work day.  Not only do people on opposite sides not understand each other...they don't want to understand each other.  At least that is how most of them act, even when saying words to the contrary.

Given that unfortunate state of political art, it nonetheless is confounding to me how people in the same general segment of political ideology can be as negative with each other when vying for a nomination as they are with those diametrically opposed to their point of view.  When viewed as the bigger picture, their differences are extremely minor and, while demonstrably important, don't seem to rise to the level that calls for a "take no prisoners" conflict.  Yet that is what happens in both major political least as I view it.

I remember Ronald Reagan's admonition to not speak ill of any fellow Republican.  I always like both the sound and the content of that statement.  Even as we now embark on the very beginning of a campaign that will result in a new President of these United States of America, we see this strange sense of cannibalism becoming more apparent.  There used to be an art to a candidate explaining the plus' of their positions that did not require an attack on anyone else; "I am better than 'xxxxx' because I would 'xxxx.' " caused a listener or reader to think about how that person's election would effect the body he was trying to join...and how it would serve our own community.  Those who simply explained why one shouldn't like someone else never used to be a reason to presume that the person deriding another would be a good office holder.  So...why does that seem to work now?  I doesn't with me, but there has got to a serious expectation of its efficacy since almost everyone seems to do it.

And the serious downside of such negative campaigning is that regardless of who wins, that survivor finds that the infighting has handed the real opponents much ammunition to use in the general election.  So...where is the advantage?  I just don't see it.  Short term, maybe there is a boost...but in the age of video tape and recording the long term result is usually disastrous.

Are politicians and political really so stupid as to continue this absurd practice?  I guess we will see in just a bit...

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