Charles Madigan is one of my favorite columnists and sometimes bloggers along with Lynn Sweet and Eric Zorn. Today he writes about the need to put petty political issues aside to deal with larger issues we face:
The big question now is how are we going to handle these challenges, this president’s failures.
We can back him into the corner and watch him scramble, or we can rise above that and look for common bonds, interests and values that advance a more noble cause, the interest of the United States, not just the passing interests of political parties.
That we have already seen in abundance.
I don’t take this as a Broderesque appeal to the center for all things wise especially since Madigan points out he thinks much of the President’s agenda is wrong. However, there is a problem that I think many haven’t dealt with in this Presidency that we haven’t seen since Nixon.
I’m all for disagreeing respectfully and some of the time I even try to keep the tone here that way. Well, sometimes. That said, this administration is trying to institute an imperial presidency. It has overreached on Presidential Authority and cast aside the fundamental document to our social contract, the Constitution.
It is the height of incivility to attack our social contract as he has done and he has had willing accomplices from much of his supporters throughout this period who paint even those who disagree civilly as appeasing terrorists or providing aid and comfort to the enemy.
It’s also true that such “they started it “talk doesn’t solve the problem, but the problem isn’t going to be solved as long as George Bush is in office. He has made an art form of sliming his opponents and questioning their patriotism. Bush is incivil and he continues to try manipulate the country through every tool at his disposal–legal or not. Worse, any criticism of him is automatically met with character assassination of the person criticizing him. Bill Clinton’s spin machine was bad, but amateurish compared to the institutions the right has built up to control the debate.
I’ll take it one step further though and I’d suggest that toxicity of our politics is an institutional feature that is bound to happen under certain circumstances. Many of us who grew up watching Bob Michel and others work through compromises across the aisle think of a better time in our politics and bemoan the loss of civility between the parties. I don’t think we or the politicians have changed much, but the electoral consequences have. The Republicans in the late 1980s were largely a permanent minority party and there was little notion that they would become dominant in Congress and so the two parties were able to work together because Republicans needed to to have any influence and Democrats perceived no threat.
Today, it is clear that every major election is up for grabs and so the partisan fighting is especially intense because the stakes are far higher.
Democrats and those more generally center left should try to be civil, but when the stakes and dangers of this Presidency are so great, being shrill is hardly my biggest concern.