Friday, December 11, 2009

Washington's Increasingly Blatant Partisanship

Perhaps I'm overreacting to what may be a largely unavoidable aspect of American politics, but I'm getting more and more disappointed and disturbed by what I view as increasingly blatant partisanship displayed by our elected representatives in Washington, D. C. By blatant I mean discourse that very inaccurately represents views of the speaker or writer's political opponents, that is purposely misleading, often mean-spirited, immature, unprofessional, and usually counter-productive in achieving its aims. Moreover, this discourse serves to sidetrack or slow down needed progress on important issues.

This partisanship is practiced by both Democrats and Republicans, and I'm thinking especially about members of Congress, where the volume and scope seem to be more prominent by those members who are in the minority, currently, of course, the Republicans. However, we also see it from time to time employed by the president and members of his administration.

We see examples of this inappropriate partisanship almost every day, particularly in discussions or negotiations dealing with major and controversial legislative issues, such as health care and our economic recovery, and in related media interviews. It's certainly not difficult to detect. Examples are Republican leaders accusing the Obama administration of supporting the government's "takeover" of health care in this country, by originally calling for the so-called "public option," and criticizing the Democrats' health plan as leading us to employ "death panels" in deciding the fate of ill seniors. Another related example is Oklahoma Senator Tom Coburn proclaiming on how health reform will affect seniors, saying "I have a message for you: you're going to die sooner." Still another is associating Obama's policies with Communism and Nazism. Outrageous!

These comments are, of course, intended to mislead the public, increase conservative and right-wing passion and support from their Republican base, slow down and weaken progress in Congress on legislation they disagree with, and build up their support for the upcoming mid-term congressional elections. It's also clear that these comments purposely provide fuel for highly partisan criticism and cynicism by the popular conservative media, especially radio and TV talk shows.

The Democrats are not completely innocent of strong partisanship, but it doesn't seem as blatant and as common as is the case with Republicans, and it's no doubt in part because they currently control the Congress and have their man in the White House. My impression, for example, is that by unreasonably exercising their political power, Speaker Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Reid have frequently not given Republican colleagues equal and fair opportunity in committee meetings to provide their opinions on legislative issues. I have no facts on this, but I suspect it's reasonably correct.

I give President Obama generally good marks on seeking bipartisanship and civil and pragmatic political discourse, but occasionally he may have gone a little too far. An example is when he recently publicly commented that some Republican leaders appeared to be rooting for him to fail, implying this was so even if it was not in the country's best interest.

My objective is not to allocate blame among Democrats and Republicans. My point is that blatant partisanship, as I tried to define it, while in most cases not illegal, is unethical and reflects poorly on the individual practitioners and on our political community at large. Our voters and taxpayers deserve better.

What can and should be done about it? President Obama should continue to try and set a good example and congressional leaders should rein in abusers and make it clear how their elected representatives and staffs should behave on this subject. Perhaps with greater effect, the public should assertively advise their elected representatives what they expect and the responsible media should highlight and criticize obvious abuse in their newspaper articles and editorials and radio and TV shows. Furthermore, voters should reflect their disdain in future elections and vote against serious violators.

Do I think this will happen? Probably not much, but at least I'm getting this off my chest. What do my readers think about this?

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