Cynical, Angry, and Argumentative
Several factors have brought us to this unfortunate point. Technology has advanced to such a degree that it is easy to dig up all kinds of information about a person, the negative as well as the positive. The minor foibles of an individual's life are no longer as private as they used to be. If Senator Kennedy was running as a first-time candidate today, his personal shortcomings probably would have prevented him from being elected.
Today, the 24/7 news cycle has created an insatiable need to fill airtime. As a result, we see less reporting by the media and more so-called analysis, which often is filled with biased views. Monday-morning quarterbacking has become a national pastime. This has led to a balkanization of views and to a public mood that is cynical, angry, and argumentative.
Political campaigns have become astronomically expensive. Democracy is threatened when only a select few have the financial resources to seek high office. Not only are the campaigns much more expensive, they're also lasting longer than ever. Who has the money and the time for these marathon political races?
Finally, and perhaps most important, is the power of special interests. Lobbying groups are hardly new to politics, but where they once fought to promote a particular viewpoint, they now throw their considerable energy and resources into attacking the other position and assassinating the character of the people associated with it. Too few people these days attempt to accommodate the other side for the sake of a common purpose.
Why would any potential political leader want to subject him- or herself to any of this?
My hope is that we will come out of this, as we have in the past. Politics in this country has been ugly before; just look at the John Adams-Thomas Jefferson contest in 1800 or the 1828 race between Andrew Jackson and John Quincy Adams. With his frequent efforts to cross the aisle in the Senate, Senator Kennedy showed that civility is possible even in our highly contentious era. We have to hope more politicians follow his example. They need to show us that theirs is a noble profession and that public service is a privilege.
Posted by: jama452 | September 1, 2009 1:16 PM
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