In the name of tolerance, a great deal of intolerance is being dished
out to the American public, most of it via media venues which profit
in various ways by its relentless agitation and incessant noisy racket.
Nowhere perhaps is this phenomenon more audible and visible than
its presence in the 2020 presidential campaign cycle already well
underway. At first, it might have been supposed that the verbal,
physical and legal confrontational rancor would be mostly between
the two major political parities and their nominees --- with a
continuing emphasis on attacking the incumbent president.
An apparently record number of nominally serious candidates for the
challenging party’s presidential nomination, however, has quickly
produced efforts to attack certain candidates and push them, or keep
them, out of contention --- from forces within that party itself.
A lament, has subsequently been heard about about the lack of civility,
fairness and clarity in the rhetoric and tactics of the political combat
now taking place.
The truth is, it is time to say, that politics in America has just in fact
returned to its bare knuckle origins. We tend to forget that at the very
beginning of the republic the discourse of U.S. politics was personal,
defamatory, often slanderous, and usually contemptuous. No one was
spared --- not even George Washington, Thomas Jefferson or Abraham
Lincoln. As the nation grew in size, population, and economic and
military power in the 19th and early 20th centuries, its political
discourse became only slightly less contemptuous --- that is, until
mass communications in radio and television began to moderate its
tone when identified speakers voices and faces were seen and heard.
With the sudden advent of the internet and social media, anonymity
returned and so did the contempt. As with other forms of public
violence, mass attention could also be obtained by many of those
who eschewed anonymity for public displays of revenge, ugly
put-downs and sensational ex post facto political allegations.
The laments about this state of public affairs do not hinder it in
any way --- and so it not only continues, but grows louder, more
vicious, and more uncivil. Furthermore, it now appears to know few
if any allegiances, alliances or restraints.
It is not going away any time soon. In fact, it will now grow louder,
especially as the 2020 political cycle now underway. proceeds toward
election day eighteen months ahead. Even when that election
determines winners and losers, it will not fade away, as the precedent
of the 2016 aftermath has established.
One profound consequence of all of this is, and will continue to be,
that some of the most qualified and talented men and women in our
nation will simply and understandably avoid or pass on contributing
to public life, elected or appointed.
Nothing, of course, is permanent in human affairs, but the politics of
contempt will not go away until it so exhausts voters that public opinion
finally reasserts itself and declares, like a parent to a spoiled child, a
firm and unchallengeable “NO!”
Copyright (c) 2019 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.