The election is over. Thank Goodness.
I think what bothered me the most about this election, and in truth, election cycles over the last ten years, is what it does to me and my own behavior towards those with whom I disagree politically.
I don’t think there is much dispute, from either side, that there is a genuine lack of civility in politics today. Who’s to blame for this conduct is undoubtedly in the eye of the beholder. But it’s become the norm to vilify opponents rather than simply oppose their views. Gandhi implored us to “hate the sin, love the sinner.” But that concept has no place, apparently, in today’s political sphere.
All of which wouldn’t bother me nearly as much except for how it makes me behave. I find myself cheering when a self-righteous, holier-than-thou candidate is tripped up by his own newly-discovered failings. Take for example, Gary Condit. He was a Congressman, at the center of the tragic Chandra Levy case. He was eventually exonerated of any complicity in her death, but it was hard to feel much sympathy for the man. While serving in office, he never missed an opportunity to excoriate Bill Clinton, yet conducted an affair with an intern young enough to be his daughter. Aha, I thought. Karma has bitten him in his self-righteous ass. Should I be that happy at someone’s else’s moral failings?
But politics today has become a zero-sum game. The only way I win is if you lose – and lose spectacularly. And maybe I even get to rub your nose in it. Nyah, Nyah, Nyah. There is no room for the moderate, no place at the table for men like Henry Clay, “the great compromiser.” Nancy Reagan’s slogan of “Just Say No,” has been co-opted to “Just Vote No,” by the opposition, regardless of the merits of any particular bill. And like sheep following Bo-Peep, too many of our elected officials follow their chosen leaders right over the cliff.
The 112th Congress will take office on January 3, 2011. It can be a fresh start. Civility can — must — return to those hallowed halls, even while spirited debate is encouraged. And I need to practice what I preach — so would any Tea Party members like to come to tea?
Marian, the Northern half of Evelyn David
The Sullivan Investigation Series
Murder Drops the Ball (Spring 2011)