Political Debate – Where Has All the Civility Gone?

There was a day when political debate carried with it the notion of civility. That it was possible to hold a political debate with a rival (even one from the opposite side of the political landscape) and hold an issues-driven conversation. Impassioned, certainly, but it used to be possible to hold a passionate conversation on any topic (political debate or otherwise) without seeing it devolve into mud slinging and name calling. Without seeing the parties from both sides stomp off in frustration and disgust, absolutely convinced that the person on the other side of the debate is a first rate moron (in the best case), or a traitorous enemy of his country (in the worst).

To say that this situation is not conducive to CONSTRUCTIVE political debate is understatement at its most sublime, and I would contend that it is, in fact, the key ingredient that is paralyzing the nation and making any kind of “meeting in the middle” absolutely impossible.

Our current president (Obama) said as much during his first meeting with congressional republicans, telling them that because they, and their talk-show-host idols who have been allowed to essentially dictate policy for the republican party, have so demonized the left…have painted them with such a starkly evil brush that it makes any sort of compromise position with them an impossibility, and because of that, we wind up with an exceedingly polarized position. Two camps with opposite views on what the way forward should look like, and both sides have so demonized the other than it would be political suicide to reach out to them and make a compromise.

Because of that, no compromise is ever reached (witness the doings of the self-described “Party of No”), political discourse resembles honest political debate less and less, becoming all the more divisive, and creating a vicious circle that cannot have a good ending for ‘We, the People.’

The only solution to this is to admit that both sides have mischaracterized their opponents. That neither side is bent on destroying the nation, and that both sides have something to offer to the political debate, should we ever reach the point that we can say that word and have it mean something besides ‘shouting match that happens to be about politics.’

There must be at least a measure of civility present for political debate to even take place.

We don’t have to agree with each other. Hell, we don’t even have to like each other, but we should be able to listen to each other’s ideas and gain something from them without branding the other side as a traitor to his nation, mentally deficient, or unworthy to live here.

If we can’t do at least that, then how can we honestly say we are participating in political debate at all? How can we honestly say we are deserving of the legacy that our founding fathers have left us?

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