Why U.S. Politics Will Get Uglier

The simple reason for this is that a significant percentage of Americans are either depressed, discouraged, or angry – if not all three.  And most people want either a quick and easy solution or someone to blame, if not both. Easy solutions are not possible, and no solution is possible without compromise, as I’ve noted before, and the media is a large factor in making compromise politically infeasible.

Unfortunately, that’s not the only problem. The Republicans have spent most of the past four years attacking Obama and the Democrats, and making political gains from those attacks.  The Democrats have finally realized two things.  You can’t prove a negative [which philosophers have known for thousands of years], and urging people to be reasonable doesn’t work when we you’re under violent attack.  The negative that they can’t prove is that matters would be much worse without the steps taken by both the last Bush Administration and the Obama Administration to bail out the financial community.  Yes, I know – the financial types didn’t deserve it, and they’ve continued to behave as irresponsibility as the government will allow them to be.  But the plain fact is, like or not, without the highly unpopular bailout, the entire world financial system would have collapsed – except you can’t prove that unless you let it happen.  So there’s no way to prove that without unacceptable results, and after four years, the Obama Administration is stuck with the “responsibility” for something it didn’t cause and a solution begun and initially implemented by Republicans [and now denied by them]. And people don’t care about those facts.  They just want things fixed.

People are angry, and many are afraid.  Angry fearful people don’t listen to reason.  They listen to the loudest and simplest voice that addresses their concerns, and the Democrats have finally begun to realize that, in order to have any chance of holding onto power in the Senate, stopping the surge of Republicans in the House, and re-electing President Obama, they’re going to have to shout just as simply, just as loudly, and just as nastily as the Republicans have been doing all along.

The Republicans don’t like this realization. That’s clear enough from recent comments from Romney and even John McCain.  But what exactly do they expect?  They’ve spent four years attacking and misrepresenting matters and seen that tactic work.  Now that their opponents have responded in kind, they’re claiming that the Democrats are to blame for politics becoming nastier.

Nonsense.  This is one area that’s becoming totally “bipartisan,” and will get even more so in the weeks and months ahead.  The attack ads will proliferate.  The charges and countercharges will escalate, and by the time the election arrives, we’ll still be polarized as a nation, if not more so, and feelings will be running higher than ever… all because it’s clear that fear-mongering beats reason in getting elected, and getting elected is more important for almost all politicians than dealing with complex societal and political problems.


19 thoughts on “Why U.S. Politics Will Get Uglier”

  1. Conrad says:

    “The period which immediately precedes an election, and that during which the election is taking place, must always be considered as a national crisis. … As the election draws near, the activity of intrigue and the agitation of the populace increase; the citizens are divided into hostile camps, each of which assumes the name of its favorite candidate; the whole nation glows with feverish excitement.” — Alexis de Tocqueville, “Democracy in America,” 1835

    Nothing new under the sun; once “hope and chains” is booted back to gangland, there will be a new morning in America and once economic growth kicks in much happier faces on the street; the media will whine of course but that’s nothing new either

  2. Jack says:

    What happens when enough people get angry and afraid?

    1. Tim says:

      To Jack : You get the equivalent of an Arab Spring. Not at all a good thing, in spite of what the media imply.

  3. Josh says:

    I’m sorry sir, but neither party is blameless when it comes to ugly politics. BOTH sides have been doing it for years, and yes I think it’s despicable when either side does it. Did you completely miss the hatred against the previous administration?

    1. ???? I said the ugliness was bipartisan… but, frankly, speaking as a life-long registered Republican who served in the Reagan Administration, I think the recent Republican ugliness and misrepresentation dwarfs anything the Democrats have done for years — until now.

      1. Steve says:

        The Democrats have held the White House, the Senate, and until recently the House of Representatives. To whom were they going to misrepresent and be ugly? The party out of power is always the one attacking the ideas of the party in power. Your article makes it seem as if the Democrats are somehow morally superior.

        1. It’s not the question of attacking, but the manner of attack. Your question presupposes that all attacks must be nasty and misrepresentational.

      2. Josh says:

        I know you said it was bipartisan, and I apologize if I misunderstood, it just seemed to me you were saying the democrats have just now come now to the other sides level. And I have to respectfully disagree about the republicans being worse until now. I’m still at the point where both sides are just as bad.

  4. Thomas R. says:

    What no one wants to admit is that we, the people get the government we elect. If we, the people are not willing to compromise on issues. Then the people we elect will not either. It seems to me that most people, instead of saying, oops, I made a mistake, look for someone else to blame! Accepting responsibility for one’s own actions is a thing of the past.

  5. Joe says:

    Democrats work with Republicans when Republicans are in power.

    Republicans do not work with Democrats when Democrats are in power.

    Given the trajectory of the country rightwards since Nixon, it seems the Republicans’ tactics are more successful.

    It would be interesting to see if the Democrats adopted Republican tactics, whether the government would collapse, and the US’s true status would be revealed: a country without a functioning government. Would the US be able to sit in limbo, like Belgium did for over 500 days, or would it suffer a coup?

  6. Therman Campbell says:

    Joe, really? I was under the impression that neither side played well with the party in power. To me, this is a good thing. The two sides should only work together when the legislation is viewed by both sides as benificial enough to justify the political fallout of working together. I hate it when either side has a supra-majority for the reason that it bypasses the requirement for both sides to work together to accomplish anything substantive and allows less than optimal rules to be made. There should be a very high bar to cross when legislating. Not quite as high as the 16th century Polish Sejm’s used to have but high:).

    1. Joe says:

      Yes, really, although I probably should have specified I meant the legislative record.

      I would understand your point of view, if Congress-people and Senators were working together. Unfortunately they are not. Witness the fact the current Congress is the most unproductive since World War II — only 80 laws were enacted in 2011. A dysfunctional Congress leads to poor laws everyone hates (Obamacare essentially allowing private corporations to levy taxes succeeds at upsetting both the right and the left). A dysfunctional Congress also reduces trust in our democratic institutions (at record lows). And for what? Take for instance the Republican’s refusal to raise the debt limit, a stance which could have bankrupted the US. It was as “principled” as refusing to pay the bill for services already consumed. To cut one’s spending, one doesn’t refuse to pay the bills, one stops consuming goods and services.

      Overall the last few Democrat administrations seem to have had to deal with more obstructionist Congresses than the last few Republican ones. And in the interest of fairness, I”d like to see the Democrats grow a spine.

  7. Darrell says:

    Joe: “Democrats work with Republicans when Republicans are in power.”
    I, like Therman, think you are drinking something that alters perceptions. IMHO, the only time the two sides (the Demopublicans and the Republocrats) agree on anything is when they receive a very clear mandate from the people (usually “do something!”) and when they see an opportunity to line their pockets (monetarily or with power). These two are usually mutually inclusive.

    Second, passing only 80 laws may be a good thing. In fact, an argument could be made that they should have passed fewer.

  8. Therman Campbell says:

    Hi Joe, you use Obamacare as an example of the two sides not working together. Actually, it was a case of the Democrats having a supra-majority and ramming the bill down our throats. Any of the, what you would call, legislative deficiancies are due to factional splits within the Democratic party. As to the debt limit issue, the limit was raised. The fact that both parties postured is immaterial, the limit was raised because it had to be done, as you said, to pay the bills. In fact, it was Republicans that used the debt limit debate to force the formation of a committee to cut spending. Not sure I’m thrilled with how this was done and the corner it is backing us into but they took a hard stand on this issue. Finally, if (historically speaking) Democrats have found themselves agreeing with Republican positions more than Republican have agreed with Democrats, that should tell you something as well.

  9. R. Hamilton says:

    The only legislation I’d like to see passed is to raise the eligibility age so that an aging population doesn’t make having the young payers subsidize the current payouts collapse completely (since there’s no hope of just tossing all benefits into the trash as the bad idea that they are). Oh, and cut half a dozen or so departments. HUD? Education? Trash can, please. “Urban Development” is an oxymoron, and education is a state/county responsibility, although there could be a role for the federal government to simply provide a neutral forum in which states could work on keeping standards reasonably compatible, etc. Labor? Keep OSHA, and dump the rest of that socialist department; and repeal the protection for unions in all but very unsafe jobs.

    Power to the productive…and cat food for the rest!

  10. Jake B. says:

    I would have thought that the onset of the unofficial supermajority requirement for legislation in congress and the massive drop in rates of acceptance of judicial nominees in the Obama administration would be enough to show the truth of the fact that republicans will not work with democrats to a much greater degree than the opposite direction.

    1. R. Hamilton says:

      I’d say rather that (a) whoever doesn’t hold the Senate will be less likely to work with whoever does than vice versa and (b) while both parties are hopeless, the left is so far out in la-la land that working with them would not be in the best interests of human beings (from which species those of the left in power have functionally disqualified themselves). The only legitimate (e.g. in terms of a Constitution that defines a LIMITED government) political alternatives are between conservative and libertarian. The left is a dangerous naiveté that must be trained out of people (government can NEVER be a replacement for good parents, and even kids of good parents have to grow up); unfortunately, the left owns the educational system.

  11. Who “owns” the educational system depends on where you live, and the far right is just as deadly to good education as the far left. Where I reside, and in a number of other places I’ve lived, the “right” owns it, pretty much lock, stock, and barrel, all the way from elementary school through graduate university studies. The major state university does have a few moderates around, and there might be a few token liberals here and there. In Massachusetts, however, the opposite is true, and has been for more than fifty years… but it’s dangerous to make generalizations. Certainly, there’s more “liberal” rhetoric in and around education, but that doesn’t mean that liberals control all education.

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