Thursday, May 05, 2005

Republicans, Democrats and the Bad Blood that's Destroying Debate

Has national debate really hit a new low? Jim Hoagland thinks so. He says:
[T]he governing class in Washington today is riven by give-no-quarter political competition that denigrates compromise across party and ideological lines…

We are not just opponents or rivals now. We are enemies, with every fight being zero-sum," says a senior Republican lawmaker sorrowfully. Echoes a Democrat: "Compromise is seen as weakness by many of your constituents, and by all of your potential opponents in the next primary."

The point isn’t compromise. The point is that the two parties are completely estranged, unable to so much as open a dialogue. And it’s not just that the rhetoric is extreme—today’s partisans seem to actually believe their own smears and exaggerations.

In today’s partisan world, Democrats truly believe Republicans are full-on evil and Republicans truly believe Democrats are dangerously stupid. You can’t have a debate with an opponent you so thoroughly disrespect. So all we get is the shouting matches, hyperbolic insults and raw anger that comes from relationships gone horribly bad.

Will it change? Yes. But as Rick Heller says over on Centerfield, “first there has to be a showdown in the 2006 election. Then, after the blood is cleaned up, there could be real movement toward moderation in 2008.”

2006 could be a catalyst, or it could happen even sooner. Every day, more and more people are realizing that our leaders no longer debate the issues, no longer consider ideas. There’s nothing wrong with a knock-down, drag-out fight over issues. But there is something wrong with the relentless character assassinations and total dismissal of opposing views that we see from our leaders and their allies.

Republicans are not evil. Democrats are not stupid. Most people on both sides believe what they believe for solid reasons. But until our leaders learn to debate again—until the voters decide they want real debate again—we will be stuck in an endless, destructive face off between our dysfunctional political parties.


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