I spent my first semester of college as a political science major, primarily because my mom wanted me to become a lawyer. But that was never my dream, especially considering the cost of law school. It just didn’t make sense for someone of limited means, especially since my heart wasn’t in it.
Still, I kept it as my minor. Throughout my undergrad years, I sat in many classes, and can say without question that I had only one professor who let her political bias guide her teaching (I was in the middle even then, so passed her class without too much trouble, which couldn’t be said of a few of my liberal classmates). It was the political science professor who was my first academic adviser, who was so impressed that I came from the 3rd District, which was represented by, at the time, the sole Republican in Arkansas’ congressional delegation.
I had no idea of the political ideologies of most of my professors or my elementary and high school teachers unless I spent considerable time with them outside class, and some of them I still had no idea about until I friended them on Facebook decades later. That’s really how it should be. (Of my poli-sci professors, I only knew the politics of two: the aforementioned adviser and one other professor who told us, but he just taught and didn’t try to “indoctrinate” us to his point of view. All the others I still have no idea about.)
Politics, though, has now taken over everything, and there’s little that hasn’t been made worse by it. Maybe a couple of flowers in the local park, but I’m sure it’ll get around to them soon.
It’s even reached places you wouldn’t think it would, like the private Facebook Word Nerds group, where this post from group member Gordon Mason appeared Tuesday afternoon: “A gentle reminder, if I might be so bold. This fascinating site is clearly one where members are mostly American. Comments on words are predominantly from people with an American background, commenting from and within an American context. Many seem unaware that the English-speaking world is a broad church in which non-American spellings and usages are also acceptable. Some (a very few, but noisy) become quite unpleasant in their assertions that the American spelling or usage is the only right way. Can we just calm down, folks, and remember that there’s a whole wider world out there which also speaks English…and their views, and spellings, are OK too…and when someone points that out to not take it personally or accuse them of spoiling for a fight. Let’s be kind every day, eh?”
I mean, geez, can we just get back to arguing over whether “irregardless” is a word? (It is, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it.) It’s about words, not who wins. Government, too, shouldn’t be about who wins, but that’s what it’s become.
Longtime readers know of my affection for public servants of the past like John Paul Hammerschmidt (the 3rd District congressman referenced above) and Dale Bumpers. Notice I call them public servants rather than politicians; they were politicians too, but their first priority was the good of the people, not politics. They would probably be horrified by what’s going on in government now, not just nationally but here at home. Hammerschmidt would probably be called a RINO by today’s GOP simply for his willingness to work with, rather than against, Democrats. Both he and Bumpers were pretty solid centrists.
While we have people misusing words like “tyranny,” “persecution,” and “patriotism,” they’re also denigrating things like “compromise.” You know, that thing that has been done since this country began to ensure the best outcome for the most people (good lord, do people not know how the Constitution came about??). Compromise lets all get some of what they want, and can make legislation better for everyone regardless of party. If neither side will budge because of politics, nothing gets done, or one side waits till it has sufficient power and passes everything on a party line, only to see it possibly dismantled the next time the other party has the power.
Which is how D.C. has operated in the last couple of decades, and why I just can’t stand politics as it’s practiced today. As I wrote on my Facebook page recently, I’m disgusted “mostly because of the antics of fringe politicians who have in some cases become basically the voice of their party (party leaders, if you remain silent when people like [Marjorie Taylor Greene] make declarations, you’re ceding leadership to them).”
This applies no matter what party we’re talking about, though in D.C., Democratic leadership tends to speak up on the official line when someone like Ilhan Omar or Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez goes off script. Lately, Republican leadership has just let the crazy talk stand, which gives the distinct impression it’s OK by them.
All voices should be heard because good ideas can come from anywhere, but wise leaders know when to caution those at the far edges to rein themselves in if they want to get the work of the people accomplished. The goal for those in Congress should be to make things better for the majority of all people in the U.S., not their donors or their base. And let’s recall that independents are the largest political group, not Democrats or Republicans.
The idea of working together for the greater good seems to have mostly disappeared, and we’re all the poorer for it. There are some in both major parties who work in the vein of Hammerschmidt and Bumpers, but there are not nearly enough of them, and in some areas they can’t get elected because they don’t belong to the dominant party. Rather than people who have good ideas and are dedicated to public service, we’ve seen too many people elected whose intent is not to do the best they can for their constituents, but whatever is best for them, whether that’s making a menace of themselves on social media and in the legislative chamber or making deals that will most benefit them personally.
Even worse, in Arkansas and elsewhere, there’s a pitched battle between traditional Republicans (now called RINOs???) and the crazy anarcho-libertarian-Trumpist Republicans who want to tear everything down if they don’t get their way. Some are doing their best to keep up the idea that states are being invaded by evil socialist liberals who apparently plan to sacrifice all our babies so that they can build windmills and solar panels … or something. The sad thing is, too many are believing what they’re told rather than what they can see with their own eyes, which is why our next governor will most likely be a former Trump employee who has shown little to no interest in the actual issues in Arkansas, only recently returned to the state, and who has raised the vast majority of her campaign funding from out of state. Sigh.
Instead of calm, deliberate debate, now it’s all about antagonizing the opposition and painting them as the root of all evil (that’s love of money, according to the Bible, and campaign finance is a whole other can of worms). Have a needed piece of legislation that’s been heavily researched and thoughtfully written? Meh; let’s use this cookie-cutter bit of probably unconstitutional nonsense from a special-interest group because it will rile up the base and mean more money in the campaign war chest.
Really? Why is this acceptable to so many people?
We could actually debate the filibuster, noting that it’s no longer what it was intended to be, and maybe consider going back to when senators had to actually hold the floor rather than merely threaten a filibuster so that the Senate might once again be able to honestly claim to be a great deliberative body. It’s not in the Constitution anyway, so it’s hanging on by the thread of Senate tradition, and in name only, really.
We could talk about not dumping the Electoral College, but rather standardizing how votes are awarded, as most states award them based on winner-takes-all. To more closely reflect voters’ desires, I’d go with awarding votes proportionally, which two states do already; candidates would get the electoral votes of the districts they win in a state, and the overall winner of the state would get the two at-large votes. Small states would still retain an advantage, but not the outsize one they have now.
And we could talk about what’s actually in (like standardizing rules for voting and redistricting across the states), and not in (like feds running elections and illegal aliens voting), voting-rights legislation, and give it the attention, debate and revision it deserves. But we won’t.
Why? Politics. Which is also why many of us can no longer talk to each other without insults, misinformation and rancor.
Pardon me if I decline to engage.