Friday, October 02, 2009

Much Needed Push-back

Looking back at my blog posts over the last few months, I've noticed an undercurrent of negativity. I'm generally not a negative person, and I don't think my posts have been overly gloomy but I have noticed a growth in my cynicism (case in point, my post on Frustration with the Political Climate).

For a long time I've been something of a political junkie, and while I tend toward the liberal/progressive end of the spectrum because of my religious convictions, I don't consider myself a partisan person. So I've become frustrated that the hyper-partisan nature of the campaign season, particularly in Presidential years, hasn't receded into the background and been overshadowed by substantive debate.

The thing that has bugged me the most is how the conservative end of the spectrum has been dominated by talking heads like Rush Limbaugh, Glen Beck, Bill O'Riley, and Sean Hannity. These guys seem way more interested in tearing down people who disagree with them than in actually accomplishing anything constructive. After a summer filled with Tea Partiers, people making signs of President Obama with Hitler mustaches (I thought it was equally stupid when my fellow war opposing liberals did the same thing to President Bush), scary people carrying guns to protest rallies, and other forms of outrage that seem largely manufactured, it seemed that the radical voice of the right was somehow becoming mainstream.

This is particularly distressing to me because I have a deep appreciation for intelligent, rational conservative thought, and I find that it provides balance and perspective in my own thought. I have a number of friends and loved ones (including both my father and father-in-law) whose conservative leanings challenge and sharpen my own take on the issues. Dialogue with them is extremely stimulating, even thought we rarely end up agreeing on much.

So I was very happy to see some influential conservative voices recently push back against the extremists who have been dominating the conversation of late.

David Brooks, a very intelligent columnist for the New York Times, wrote an op-ed making a very persuasive case for how the Faux News talking heads have significantly less power and influence than they claim.

South Carolina Republican Senator Lindsey Graham (who has often pandered to the radical right) recently hit back very hard at extreme voices, specifically O'Reilly and Beck, suggesting that these guys are doing more harm than good. Graham made an especially salient point when he contrasted the willingness of the Founding Fathers (guys who often did not get along well) to dialogue and compromise for the good of the whole country with the current state of political discourse.

I hope these protests from more rational, mainstream conservative voices represents a return to civility in our national discourse. If we can put down the Hitler signs and assault rifles, quit shouting and actually talk to each other, we'll be much better off. We won't always agree or get our way all of the time, but at least we'll remember we're all on the same team here.

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