Monday, November 08, 2010

Bonanza Column 210 – When All is Said and Done…

The adage "When all is said and done, more is said than is done" has been attributed to Aesop. Whoever first said it, that old saw is particularly apt with reference to last week's election results. It's been less than a week and rivers of ink (or electrons) have already flowed, none of which I've found terribly insightful, and I've come to the conclusion that the reason for that is that not much really happened.

Before my avid critics jump on this, let me acknowledge that there were losses in Democratic races – the GOP now controls the House, and the prospective Assistant Majority Leader has already said that he, for one feels his highest priority is to make sure President Obama serves only one term. Not jobs, not Afghanistan, not the economy – politics. Hopefully cooler heads will prevail on the Republican side of the aisle.

If you examine it factually, though, there is less there than meets the eye. Compared to mid-term elections over the past 40 or 50 years, this one was pretty much business as usual – every mid-term has seen the party in the White House lose ground, usually gaining it back in the next Presidential election year, and the magnitude of the loss this time was not remarkable.

On a hopeful note, I've seen reports that indicate that less than half of the candidates endorsed by the Tea Party and Ms Palin were elected, and I think that's a sign that the whole Tea Party frenzy is nearing the end of its 15 minutes, and despite indications she plans to try for a Presidential nomination for 2012, maybe the same can be said for Ms Palin. Sharron Angle and Christine O'Connell lost handily, as did Carl Paladino in New York, so there may be hope for intelligence and sanity to prevail on the Right yet.

Despite Mr. McConnell's sense of priorities, I'm hoping that the next two years will see a diminution of the "echo chamber" effect on both sides. By that I mean the increasing tendency to listen only to points of view that we agree with and thus to keep validating what we already believe. This is especially pernicious when things are presented as "facts" that are objectively not true and can easily be checked. It's OK with me if you want to object to the President making a state visit to India; it's not OK to make up that it's costing millions of dollars a day, or that he's taking 200 people with him or that 10% of the US Navy is being deployed for his security. Those things just aren't true. Let's argue philosophy, ideology, and how we explain facts such as the unemployment rate or the economic downturn, but let's have the intellectual integrity to get our facts straight. To paraphrase Bernard Baruch, everyone has a right to their opinions, but no one has a right to be wrong in their facts.

The one thing I've heard consistently from people all over the US in the past week is that they are glad the election is over and are sick of the rancor and nastiness in the campaigns. We need all kinds of election reform – campaign finance reform, reversal of the ill-advised Citizens United decision, a shorter campaign season – but the reform we need most in my opinion is a return to civility in our political discourse. Let's see if we can't demand from our candidates that they have a bigger conversation next time around.

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