Friday, February 09, 2007

All partisanship is corrupt

I wrote before how I was getting sucked in by politics again. I was expecting that no one would be humbled by the November elections despite how well the Democrats were expected to do. Well, this time the predictions were correct, at least the predictions were that tilted the most toward the Democrats, ignoring this mystical power Karl Rove was expected by some to have on voter turnout. I’ve heard Republicans being sad to lose Rick Santorum and George Allen. I’ve heard plenty of recrimination about how Republicans should have paid more attention to fiscal conservatism and not taking bribes. If no one actually ate crow, maybe some had to smell crow. The actually eating might be for 2008 or maybe it will be the Democrats who find it’s their turn to be humbled again.

This should be healthy, but I wonder. My experience this morning is discouraging. I had a good morning except for one thing. It didn’t seem like a big deal at the time, but some minutes later I realized my mood had changed. I was happy. Then I was grumpy. It was all because of this political cartoon in the San Diego Union-Tribune, depicting Nancy Pelosi as crying for a bigger airplane. Now I spent a lot of time on the internet yesterday. I went by Media Matters, as I often do, where it was pointed out how Tony Snow said that it was a silly story to portray Speaker Pelosi as demanding a larger plane, indifferent to the cost to the public. Still the RNC came out with an attack e-mail at the same time listing many negative comments about Pelosi from obvious partisans. Anyone interested in the facts found out there wasn’t a story here, just Republican partisanship. Yet today here is this cartoon, completely out of touch with reality, purely an attack on an opponent, the San Diego paper being thoroughly Republican. Do facts matter at all?

Satire is an accepted form of expression. One problem with it, though, is there comes a point when the satirical presentation is so different from reality that while the word “satire” may still apply, it’s much more truthful to call it a lie. The San Diego Union-Tribune lies all the time. This cartoonist regularly provokes letters to the editor about how much of a lie his cartoons are. I’ve always shrugged about this. People are what they are. I haven’t had much luck confronting people anywhere along either the political or religious spectrum with how much they lie, how much they’re not looking to the facts of a matter, but where they can beat their opponents or defend their position.

There’s been another firestorm this week involving Republicans blasting Democrats. This time it wasn’t as important that partisans lack credibility in their attacks, as evidenced by the attack on Pelosi, because the facts of the matter were on the websites of the two women John Edwards hired to run his blog. There are so many places to start reading on this one, but wherever one starts the picture emerges that both sides are just blasting away at each other. It starts with Bill Donahue saying that anyone who talks about his Catholics this way should be fired. Then defenders of the bloggers fire back about how vicious Donohue has been in the past, while others support Donohue as being exactly right. Little rhetoric focuses on whether it’s really OK to talk about other people any way you want. Finally Mr. Edwards addressed that. I agree with his statement with one exception. He accepts the bloggers’ word that they didn’t mean to malign anyone’s faith? Oh, come on. Reportedly from his spokesperson Jennifer Palmieri has come the news that no one from the Edwards campaign looked at the offensive bloggings ahead of time and Edwards still hasn’t met either blogger in person. So maybe Mr. Edwards doesn’t really understand what was written or maybe he’s just telling a little lie. I don’t think this successful trial lawyer is dumb enough for the former.

When Amanda Marcotte equates the Holy Spirit with ancient mythology and says so many other contemptuous things that I’ve lost track, in as forceful a language as possible, I can’t imagine the slightest possibility that she didn’t mean to malign anyone’s faith. She certainly maligned mine. So should she be fired? I don’t care. That’s up to her employer. Lots of people malign my faith. I wish they wouldn’t, but if they were all fired or dropped dead, the US economy would grind to a halt. Europe would be almost completely depopulated. It’s not necessary just for me.

What interests me more than the big guns blasting away at both sides are the little lies, like John Edwards lie that his new employees didn’t mean to be bad. Of course they did. He could have accepted that differently, without lying. For some reason he didn’t. I’m sure it’s politics, just as his decision whether to fire anyone had to rest in politics. How amazing it was to read in the DailyKos and similarly leftist blogs how quickly some would abandon Edwards forever if he fired bloggers who were like them or be drawn to him even more if he kept their sisters on. That is indeed politics, not morality, not anything else.

There was a time when I said, “A pox on both your houses,” a few times. Mostly I did that when I gave up finding any common ground with atheists or fundamentalists, but extremist politics is similar. In religion, I paid more attention to liberal religion once I was sure I never was going to find a larger group for fellowship than that. Yet liberal religion is divided into several groups, many with non-negotiable ways of seeing things if not beliefs. The middle ground for politics is similar. I’ve been reading the blog The Moderate Voice regularly. They tell little lies there. It’s not always from the same perspective. Sometimes it’s a little Republican lie, sometimes a little Democratic lie, sometimes a little lie that breaks away from both mainstreams. Anyone can see for himself or herself. It’s all the same politics, pushing an agenda, twisting the facts, denying wrongdoing in oneself, magnifying it in your enemies.

I’m sure it’s done because it works. If the American people demanded civility and scrupulous honesty, we’d have civility and scrupulous honesty. They don’t. In fact they seem to appreciate a good scrap to weed out losers.

Somehow all of that was in this cartoon this morning, not at first, but in me to mix with whatever this cartoon added. It made me grumpy. It didn’t help for me to say that none of this matters. It’s window dressing. It’s the fans misbehaving in the stands, with no bearing on the serious game being played in the field. Well, some of it is. But for any problem in our culture, it’s this sort of silliness and lying that keeps there from being a solution. I know the suffering this causes, the lack of health care, the lack of a secure income, the foreign policy adventures. Lots of people talk about such things, but they talk about them as partisans, and all partisanship is corrupt. Look at that cartoon again. Look at cartoons that attack Bush or other Republicans. There are lies among them, too.

It’s not that fun to watch without the numbers regarding the election. I’m humbled by it if no one else is willing to be.

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