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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

Can politics be positive? A backlash against mudslinging

As you all most likely know already, it’s election season again! The Campus Democrats are out in full force, as are the Poweshiek County Republicans (as well as some Campus Republicans). There are apathetic voters everywhere, with some “angry voters” in the mix which we hear about regularly in the news. Campaign ads dominate the airwaves across the country, but what can we honestly expect for 2010-2012? Politics as usual? Funny how it always seems to turn out that way.

That politics and public cynicism seem to go hand in hand is no surprise, and one might be tempted to say that it is in fact the natural way of things—candidates/politicians run moderately uninformative ads that make nondescript promises such as “More Jobs for Hardworking Americans,” and attack the other party (or political system in general) with varying degrees of viciousness. Eventually, someone gets elected and inevitably has to work with the opposing party that they attacked (and were attacked by), and have to compromise their values not necessarily with the views of their “opponents” but with those of the people and companies who made possible their election, which was based on the expensive but uninformative ads funded by these same folks. Is there a better way?

It’s clear that the system is terribly counterproductive. Instead of bringing together as many Americans as possible to have the right ideas of getting the country out of hard times, the result is that most Americans go around thinking that the “other” side is stupid (or that “both” sides are wrong, so why bother?), and the dissemination of good information never happens. But instead of accepting that it will always be this way, I think that we can make meaningful change to this system by starting from the ground up.

It is often said that “Washington is broken” because of the lack of bipartisanship. If anything, this reflects growing trends in our country. Communities as a whole are becoming increasingly defined by political identity—liberals/Democrats are increasingly choosing to live with other liberals/Democrats, conservatives/Republicans are increasingly choosing to live with other conservatives/Republicans. The result of this is that people just don’t have conversations with people of differing political ideologies, and don’t know how to civilly deal with folks from the other side when engaged in a meaningful political discussion. Political campaigns and sensationalized, politicized news-media sources only add fuel to the flame. While we can’t hope to reverse these unfortunate circumstances in the short term, I think that individual Democrats, Republicans and independents ought to recognize that these factors benefit no one and are generally detrimental to us as a country on the whole. We should work to counteract the politicians by working together to do something simple: start talking to each other.

There are plenty of people interested in serving the greater good of this country through politics who unfortunately are forced into the negative-campaign game. There are many more who have become disillusioned with politics and thus disaffected. I’d like to make a suggestion that I hope to get a chance to act on myself in the future (but I’ll put it out to everyone in the meantime): start up community political discussion groups that would foster healthy debate with an emphasis on approaching facts with an open mind. Most importantly, get local political organizations from all sides involved as well as ordinary citizens. It’s a little idealistic, but with fewer of the barriers that people put up in formal speeches, advertisements, media announcements and commitments to partisanship, I think we as citizens can work towards a more honest, productive political system.

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