In Defense of Civility in Politics

I’m a pretty conservative guy, by most people’s standards. I get that. I could probably be called old-fashioned in many ways, and I wouldn’t bristle at the label. That’s likely a big reason I’m so fed up with the political news cycle. I get that politics has been dirty and slimy for quite some time. But then along came the 24 hour news cycle, where there HAD TO BE NEWS EVERY MINUTE OF THE DAY, or what are they going to talk about? And of course politics fit perfectly into this niche, because there’s never an Answer, never a solution. It’s all about process and compromise.

Except that with the 24 hour news cycle, it started to evolve. Because it’s boring talking about compromise and facts. It’s better television to get people on the screen having Firm Opinions. And not just firm opinions. Deeply held beliefs. And not just talking about them. Fighting about them. Honestly, sometimes I wonder if I’m watching political discussions or professional wrestling.

And then–as if that wasn’t bad enough–social media came along. Suddenly. everybody’s got their own soapbox to stand on and start berating everyone else about how wrong headed they all are. And because social media is becoming more integral to our lives, it’s increasingly difficult to turn off that fire hose of political opinions that keeps blasting into your brain.

Suddenly we’re being confronted not just with our friends’ politics, but with their friends’ politics. Folks, there’s a reason I don’t go into a room full of strangers and proclaim loudly, “I THINK ALL DEMOCRATS AND REPUBLICANS ARE MORONS.” (Not a real opinion of mine, by the way.) First off, I recognize a statement like that is a complete over-generalization. Second, I realize many of the people in the room are either Democrat or Republican. And third, I realize that my own personal opinion really doesn’t matter a whole lot when it’s proclaimed from the rooftops like that. Opinions are great shared with friends. With people who care. They’re not so great shared with strangers.

But Bryce–you ask–what about your blog? You write your opinion on that all the time.

True. But I do that because it’s a longer format than a Facebook post or Twitter. (Good thoughts and discussion do not lend themselves well to 140 characters or a sentence or two.) Second, I generally provide a link on Facebook or Twitter that includes a brief description of the content or title of the post. It’s up to people if they want to click through or not. I imagine it’s quite easy to ignore me. (A fact confirmed by my blog analytics from time to time.)

In any case, one thing I’m hoping Facebook and Twitter are slowly showing to people is that you can have a wide variety of political opinions and still not be an idiot. Ideally, Facebook and Twitter can break down stereotypes about Republicans or Democrats. In practice, I haven’t seen that happen much just yet, but one can always hope.

But I digress.

My final complaint about politics (well, the final complain I’ll write about today, at any rate) is the way things are played out by the candidates on a national stage. Calling each other names. Pointing fingers. Going for the cheap shot. I get that it plays well with the lowest common denominator, but every time either side does it (veiled insinuations Obama is a Muslim (as if that should matter), swipes at Romney’s religion (which I can’t help but take personally), etc.), I cringe more and more inside. If I treated my coworkers the way these two campaigns treat each other, no work would ever get done. We’d be too busy trying to kill each other.

And of course, each campaign is only too eager to list the myriad ways the other side crosses the line. Made false promises. Flip-flopped. Hit below the belt. But both sides do it, and that’s a fact. Anyone who disagrees with that fact is drinking too much partisan kool-aid. (Tastes like grape, in case you were wondering.)


Much good this post does me. I wrote it hoping to get some of the anger and frustration out, and it’s only crystallized it into a purer form. Oh well. Have a nice weekend, everybody. And just think: in less than two weeks, our great nation can stop trying to fight over who should be president and go back to fighting over how stupid or great our president is.

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