Checkers the dog, boxers or briefs, looking at a watch or sighing during a debate; politics has always been filled with sideshow media distractions parodied in political cartoons and sketch comedy shows and presented as actual issues of concern to voters by the dominate media icons of the moment. Yet over the last several years with the growth of instant commentary from the masses on social media and broadcasters racing away from investigative journalism and toward covering style and snark over substance, it feels like the inane has taken over.
I watched over the last four years as thousand of my friends and followers on social media consumed themselves with trivial issues, foaming at the mouth over birth certificates, George Soros conspiracy theories and daily outbreaks of outrage over the latest nonsensical diatribe of any given loony left talking head on MSNBC. Admittedly at times I would join in on these trips toward triviality, feeling it was somehow empowering our side. Something akin to the five minutes hate in 1984. I was wasting my time.
The left and the media establishment that loves them did the same. Finding new obsessions in hate they began seeing their own cabal of invisible enemies around every corner from “Tea Baggers” to Koch Brothers to their usual whipping post of FOX News. Rather than ask how their leaders would govern, they turned their attention to Mitt Romney’s tax returns, binders full of women and Big Bird. Like any great carnival the freak show used to be a component of politics. Now it has become the main attraction and the driving force of nearly all coverage.
This was evidenced over the past week as coverage of the President’s rather flat and knowingly unrealistic State of the Union address was consumed not by what he said but by the sip of water Republican Senator Marco Rubio took while giving the Republican rebuttal. CNN and MSNBC consumed themselves with the sip, claiming it a career killer and using it as a distraction from discussing anything remotely having to do with governing. FOX and the right media consumed themselves with covering the coverage and in so doing emboldening the right on an issue that has almost no importance to rebuilding our Party. We have tried national elections on the message of “look how biased the media are.” Turns out that doesn’t take you across the finish line.
Our world is going through widespread transformation and with it strife. We are no closer to resolving our debts, fixing our education system, finding a solution to keeping trade free yet dealing with currency manipulation by competitors, ending Iran or North Korea’s nuclear ambitions, dealing with widespread rape and murder in our own borders, sealing our borders and so on. Yet we have spent many nights laboring over a politician taking a sip of water and debating President Obama’s birth certificate. There was a time when men judged one another by character and the pursuit of enlightenment. That era produced our great nation and came to a conclusion with the greatest meeting of human minds ever assembled to build it. Now we judge one another on style, the ability to tow the line on Internet memes and adherence to dishing out empty promises. What has this world given us?
For Republicans the start of this new century gave us massive spending and endless new government signed, sealed and delivered by a Republican President and Congress. For Democrats massive expansion of the military industrial complex and Bush era practices by a Democrat president and heavyweight administration that promised to put an end to global and domestic military hegemony. Jobless, hopeless and overrun with hate. Both sides are losing. Meanwhile the winners received trillions of dollars of our money. Car makers, drug makers, oil executives, green energy zealots, defense contractors and union leaders.
As we the people spend our time and energy fighting the war of stupid ideas our wealth is being transferred to corporations that should rise and fall on their own. Not a government check. We must turn our attention toward governing, toward policy and the big debates that matter. Debates over the role of government, the balance of liberty and security. The limits of the presidency and government. The fine line between freedom to travel the world and tight border control.
We must find balance in our society. Not by turning sheepish and giving in on principals on either side but by actually fighting the intellectual and philosophical battle between them. By turning away from the inane. If we continue to make binders full of women, small sips, death panels, birth certificates and the feeling flowing up Chris Matthews leg the center of our politics, we as Americans will continue to lose. We are wasting our time, energy and worst of all treasure on things that don’t matter and avoiding the real problems and differences over solving them that need to be resolved to move us forward. We should all take a moment, take a sip of water and think about what is really important for our Party and our nation and if Internet memes and snark, trivial obsessions and mountains of sweet snarky nothings will get it for us.