I watched Jon Stewart's closing speech at the "Rally for Sanity," and have to say that I wasn't all that terribly impressed. (I will now be forced to turn in my Good Liberal card.) I dunno. Watch for yourself. [Please let me know in comments if there's trouble with the embedded video; I can't watch it from this computer.]
This is all very well, but seems a wee bit like feel-good pabulum.
As a reminder that there is more to life and to our country than politics, this serves a good purpose. As a media critique, it's rather like biting the hand that feeds you, since without the 24-hour cable news culture we live in, "The Daily Show" would have precious little material to work with. And it's all very well to make warm-hearted pronouncements when people aren't expecting you to do anything more than entertain.
But here's the thing -- much (though hardly all) of the noise and heat that surrounds our national dialogue (or, perhaps, arguments) is due to the fact that our politics matter. A lot. There are issues of vital national importance at stake, and it is of the utmost importance that we can trust the people elected to do a good job managing them. Some issues get tons of press for no good reason, and others never get discussed on the campaign trail but have tremendous implications for our economy and foreign policy. And we need to have leaders who can sort these things out.
Now, I happen to think Obama is doing a decent job. Perhaps you don't. That's fine. And it's great to remind ourselves that we can all get along even though I think the POTUS is OK and you think he sucks. But what I cannot fathom is how many of the people on the cusp of election to Congress are profoundly unqualified in terms of competence, ideology or both. Think the Democrats are just awful? OK, but please offer reasonable alternatives.
If the GOP were to jettison its social conservative wing (which uses families like mine as a rhetorical weapon and with which I will make no peace), maybe we could have a conversation. Think the government is too big and spends too much? Alrighty then, tell we what you're willing to cut. But don't claim you can cut taxes without needing to make cuts in spending just because you know the cuts will be unpopular. Think we need to sacrifice some of our freedom to increase our security? I disagree, but let's figure out how to strike that balance. But don't associate yourself with unapologetic bigots.
I do not hate Republicans. There's many a family gathering where I keep my pie-hole shut because I know the room is full of people I love whose politics I find deeply problematic, and arguing will only delay the arrival of said pie. I would sincerely rejoice if the day arrived where I could once again consider voting for a Republican. But some of this year's likely winners are complete travesties, and saying "we're all in this together" and holding hands won't make them any more sane.
Update: Over to you, Michael Kazin.
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