25 thoughts on “Open Thread: Political Healing

  1. How do we define the “partisan divide?”

    I think we should have a single standard for campaign practices and a single metric for political strength. I think we should be able to accept people as something more than the sum of their candidate’s political platform. I think we should celebrate nuance and debate.

    Can we diffuse the spite? Can we learn to overcome our party archetypes? Can we re-learn how to debate? I don’t know.

    Long have I been a proponent of a multi-party system, rather than a two-party system, but the notion of a bipartisan system is that it always gives the minority opinion a sizable body politic to cling to, and that seems valuable. If it works.

    The issue, I expect, is that we will not be able to reach a consensus on what a healed divide looks like.

  2. Nope. Vigorous conflict between parties is a healthy and normal condition of public of life in a democracy. Politics isn’t group therapy. The “divide” is not a wound. There’s nothing to heal.

    Or, that’s my two cents, anyway.

    PS, could you delete the comment above? The link is wrong.

  3. I (again) agree with Will. We don’t need to eliminate our system of separate parties, but we do need to elevate the discourse from the current shit flinging to an actual reasoned debate.
    If we could change our system of elections to a multi-round system, then we would see some actual refinement of positions as multiple parties emerged, since voting for the person you really like in round one wouldn’t mean you are accidentally permitting the person you hate into office. By taking the top winners from round one and letting them all run in round two, it seems that more voices would be heard.
    BTW, I hear what you’re saying, Kevin. There is an upside to oppositional politics. In a political landscape where we vilify our opponents and refuse to discuss our own beliefs doesn’t seem healthy, although it is normal.

  4. I tend to agree with both Kevin and Seth on this one. There’s nothing wrong with some vigorous hard debate on the issues. But I’m annoyed with the way modern campaigning goes, in this day and age where everything is spin, and the media (regardless of political information) seems to just take whatever candidates or politicians say as fact and report it without doing any checking. It’s all short few-second sound bites.

    And I think there’s too much personal villification. It’s possible to disagree with somebody’s positions without dropping into some sort of personal dislike, or at least it used to be…now I’m not so sure.

  5. Only if the dumbfuck assholes that have been skewing the political discourse in this country with bullshit, lies, and re-imagining of the redefinitions of words shut the fuck up will we heal anything.

  6. I’m not talking about vigorous debate. By the partisan divide, I’m talking about the over-zealous party loyalty and “With us or against us attitude” that we seem to be cultivating in society.

    I know it started early in our country’s history. I’m honestly not sure if it’s worse today than it was 50 or 100 years ago; however, given the 24 hour news cycle and damn near instantaneous communication, it certainly has a bigger impact.

    I’m sure that if I tossed out examples of the republicans vilifying democrats, he’d be able to give me another list–and then we’d argue about whose insult was spun, taken out of context or just plain created.

    I believe that the political discourse in the country has been skewed–and not always by the right. With such terms as “Death Tax” “Tax Burden” “Tax Relief” and “Infanticide” I do think that the political rhetoric has taken a significant turn Right.

    This is what I am talking about, not debate.

  7. Oh. Well, in that case, we should heal the partisan divide. But we can’t and therefore won’t. What we might do is create a sustainable “third party” of independents who are sick of the bullshit.
    Maybe.
    As for the terms, well, I’ve already said I think the Republicans have done a better job of marketing. I agree that the habit of “framing” and “message” have been toxic codifications for our Democracy.

  8. I guess I just don’t get the hand-wringing over this “partisan divide” stuff. I mean, it’s not like people are killing each other in the streets.

    Political engagement (as measured by voter registration and % of Americans who are following political news closely) is higher than it’s been in decades. People have strong feelings about this stuff because it’s serious stuff — a war, an economic crisis, a government nearly out of control. So yeah, people express stronger and less nuanced views about our national politics than they do about “Tuesdays with Maury” at their local book group. It’s because politics matter more.

    The Deborah Howells and David Broders of the world get the vapors over the dreadful Partisan Divide because they think the status quo is awesome — their taxes are pretty low, they have great health care, their kids aren’t fighting in Iraq, their children go to great schools, etc., etc. They think things are okay, and the anger of the hoi polloi frightens and disturbs them. They think that the people should leave the governing to their betters.

    I also think that the “partisan divide” rhetoric obscures the real shape of the political landscape in the US. The Democratic Party is a center-right party with a small progressive caucus and some leftists in its base — left over from a time when the left had real political representation in the US. The Republican Party has become a far-right party with some FAR-far-rightists in its base. So the Overton Window has shifted so far to the right that concepts which were once palatable only to off-the-grid right-wing militia types are now mainstream in the GOP. They have governed from their base with a 50%+1 strategy that has deeply divided and alienated the rest of the country. But that’s just NOT a result of BOTH parties moving to extremes. What we have in this country today is the result of a long-term nixonian strategy by the GOP to break the relatively liberal post-war American consensus. They have been pushing hard to the right since the 70s. The Democratic Party spent the 90s moving to the right, trying to play the same. But the Republicans went further, faster, and have created a situation where their base is now filled with people who have internalized their most extreme rhetoric, and where the rest of the country is filled with people who are frightened and who have a really urgent sense that enough is enough, that the GOP has dragged the country so far to the right that not one more inch should be conceded.

  9. Pingback: {the partisan divide, and other things that don’t keep me up at night} | The Republic of Dogs

  10. Lewis: If I was more conservative, I can promise you that other people would be saying similarly nasty things about “blue state values.” Such as, “If they don’t love their country, they can get the hell out!” or “As long as them damn queers don’t pretend to be ‘merican, I’m fine with them.”

    Jackie’s post doesn’t make a lot of sense, but it is a sentiment that is shared by people regardless of their political beliefs.

  11. Thanks for putting words in my mouth, Marty. Or in my keyboard. Whatever. What “other people” are you talking about? Nobody here. Patriotic as I am, I’m not a “love it or leave it” type. Conservatives tend to take those first ten amendments to the Constitution damned seriously–at least the ones I know do–and that includes the First in addition to all the other nine. Knock yourselves out. Your right to protest is just as Constitutionally valid as mine, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

    On a post about “healing the partisan divide,” you’re basically rationalizing calling the other side “assfucks.” What kind of dialogue is that?

  12. Lewis:

    I would ask that you reread my comment again. I am not accusing you of anything or putting words in your mouth. I am not accusing you of anything. I am not rationalizing anything. I am pointing out that there are as bitter feelings on one side as there is on the other. What you did to my sister in law, I do frequently anytime I find myself on a Right wing blog.

    If you want me to go through Malkin, Hannity, Kristol or other Right Wing Sites that spew the same kinda crap that my friends do, I will. I’m sure we can both find more crap out there–but that isn’t the point. The point is there is a lot of vitrol and it shouldn’t just be dismissed. It needs to be recognized.

    That’s not rationalization. That’s trying to understand it.

  13. I just find it ironic that on a thread concerned with “healing”, half the country is dismissed as assfucks. Fostering consensus, this is not.

    Probably doesn’t matter anyway.

  14. Let’s try this then:

    Can someone find me a link on a politically conservative website that addresses “bridging the divide” that does not have one or two conservative people saying, “Liberals. LOL.”

    I submit that there are an equal number of sites like mine, on the other side of the political spectrum, that have the same amount of dismissive comments.

  15. I think you guys are talking about very different issues, no idea if you think the other “guys” are responding to you, but it seem pretty clear to me they’re not.

    Marty is saying: “aggresive posts that do nothing to reconcile people of diverging political views happen on both sides.”

    MC+L are saying: “Unnecessary, mean-spirited attacks on a political healing thread? What?”

    So, on one side people are perplexed at the venue people chose to say what they said; while on the other somebody else replies that this stuff is pretty widespread. They are two separate conversations going on separately, and it seems, independently.

    Now, nitpicking, I’d say that the thread was asking if “political healing” was a good idea, not a thread to directly foment it. Not that it negates the fact that calling anybody not under the “democratic” umbrella “assfucks” was not appropriate and uncalled for in this here post, as far as I’m concerned.

    Trying to go back on topic. I’m not sure myself. I do wish that we can get rid of the useless and non-productive elements of today’s political debate. I am not sure I would agree with a “healing” from a principles/points of view side. Having many opinions coexisting and constantly being checked by skeptics is something I like, and don’t see good reasons why some “center,” a very poorly defined concept is inherently good in itself.

  16. I submit that there are an equal number of sites like mine, on the other side of the political spectrum, that have the same amount of dismissive comments.

    Probably. On this particular thread, with these particular people, I feel “assfuck” and “dumbfuck assholes” are unproductive at best. They’re unproductive on others, but that’s not the one I’m dealing with here and now. But apparently I’m doing an inadequate job of communicating why this bothers me, so I’ll stop.

  17. MC+L are saying: “Unnecessary, mean-spirited attacks on a political healing thread? What?”

    Yeah. That. It’s scary enough, at least for me, to venture unpopular opinions in a forum where I know they’ll be unpopular. When there’s a high chance that not only will they be unpopular but will garner not-quite-personal insults* as well…yeah. Not real appealing.

    (*Seriously. For those of you whom I know from WoW, picture coming in on a book-vs-gaming debate, where not only are the book lovers in the majority, but if you say something to the effect of “roleplaying games can produce some damn good storytelling” and give an example or two, the general reply is “Yeah, and all gamers are fucking stupid stinking whiners still living in momma’s basement. I bet you have zits.”

    Every. Time.)

    I’m reluctant to post anything substantive when the likely result is gonna be hostility or at best, being ignored.

  18. I never said it was a sentiment of Marty’s. I was surprised to see the post on the thread, reacted, and I read Marty’s reply as “well, you guys do it too.” I think he was tending more toward the generic (teh Intertubes) and I was thinking about this specific thread and seeing that term come up on a thread about “healing the partisan divide.”

    And BTW, he’s right. Both sides do it. We all have our echo chambers, and can react poorly when someone with contrary views show up in them.

  19. Let’s try this then:

    Can someone find me a link on a politically conservative website that addresses “bridging the divide” that does not have one or two conservative people saying, “Liberals. LOL.”

    I submit that there are an equal number of sites like mine, on the other side of the political spectrum, that have the same amount of dismissive comments.

    Sure there are, but I’m unclear what argument you’re making with that. “They do it over there, so it’s okay to do it over here?” That doesn’t sound like you at all, so I’d ask that you expand on that a bit.

    I think we all, as you said upthread, “recognize” that those sentiments are there, ugly as they are, on both sides of the fence. But that doesn’t mean that just because people on the right do it, it’s okay when it’s done on the left, in the center, or wherever you fall on the political spectrum.

    From discussions you and I have had, Marty, I believe one of the goals you had for this blog was to host and foster intelligent discussions between your readers and commenters, even if their political/personal beliefs are different. Mudslinging and name-calling neither fosters civilized discussion nor does it encourage understanding.

    That doesn’t mean we can’t have conversations that get a little heated or that your readers can’t be impassioned – hell, being passionate about one’s beliefs is a good thing. Challenging others and trying to figure out where they’re coming from and why they believe as they do is a good thing.

    But it works only as long as we are respectful towards one another.

    If you want to heal the partisan divide, my suggestion is to start small. Demand civility and respect here amongst your commenters, in the space that you control and can moderate. If we get out of line, or if it looks like we’re heading in the direction of clamping our hands over our ears and shouting “LALALA I CAN’T HEAR YOU,” nudge us back on track.

    And to answer your question, if, by “Can we heal the partisan divide?” you mean “Can we stop being dicks to one another just because we disagree?” then… Well, I don’t know if it can ever be completely stopped, always-and-forever-everywhere-no-take-backs, but I think it’s worth it to try. I think if we make it a point to not just expect better of others, but to first and foremost expect better of ourselves, it would go a long way towards starting to heal that divide.

    Why, yes, these are new glasses. Don’t you love the rose-colored lenses?

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