State of Political Discourse
Charles Krauthammer passed away last week, and with him perhaps the last hope for rational political discourse. Krauthammer summed up his philosophy of political discussion in his book. I’ll paraphrase, but essentially he said that when he went into a debate with someone across the political divide, he checked his own assumptions at the door and tried to imagine where the other party was coming from. He then crafted a logic map to try to persuade that party to his point of view. Sadly, words like “logic” and “persuade” and care for “where the other party is coming from” have disappeared from the language of the Left. What remains is screaming, hatred and personal attacks, with the media following suit.
Why is this? Strong political differences are certainly nothing new, but the discourse has reached a new low, and I believe it starts with the way politicians and the media think. Media is at least a business where the profit motive rules, but one of the main reasons why Washington, DC, is held in such low esteem is that the average citizen who primarily focuses on problem-solving and getting things done can’t relate to a group whose goals are to get reelected. DC strives to be something, not do something. During the 2016 campaign, Democrats made virtually no effort to convince their constituents that they had the better way. They felt they didn’t need to since Hillary Clinton was a lock. Given permission by The New York Times, the media joined the party, simply bashing Trump at every turn.
Beginning at the top of the ticket, when the unthinkable happened, rather than do a little soul-searching about why their policies and actions failed, they made bogus excuses and continued the “Trump is unfit for office” theme. The media had bet its ratings on such vehement anti-Trump sentiment that it had alienated all but the true believer left-wing viewers. Any semblance of fairness was gone, and the goal now is to keep as many in the small far-left group as possible from leaving. Winning back the fair and balanced consumer was not in the cards, so the media doubled down, and now it has nowhere to go.
Democrats put their hopes in the belief that Trump was so bad that all they had to do was tip the first domino and he would either quit or do something impeachable. Prodded by Hillary’s consultants looking to shift the blame, “Russia” came first. When that failed, impeachment for obstruction of justice followed. That hasn’t worked either, and to their horror, Trump cut taxes and is moving toward a denuclearization deal with North Korea, among other things, and his poll numbers continue to go up. Then along came immigration, mostly in the form of the 2,000 immigrant kids who have been separated from their parents at the border because they tried to enter the country illegally. Forget that this is what the law calls for (unless you want to continue to allow the flood of illegal immigration via catch-and-release) and that Obama did essentially the same thing; the photos were too good for Democrats to pass up, even though the most prominent were actually from the Obama years.
The “Trump is a Nazi” screaming that ensued is so irrational that you wonder what Democrat genius thought this was good politics, particularly when nearly 60% of voters hold the parents of the kids, not Trump, accountable for the problem. There is no doubt that our immigration policies are insane, but rather than try to craft legislation to solve the problems, Democrats are also doubling down with the focus solely on being anti-Trump. To be sure, part of the reason Democrats find solutions so elusive is that their real goal has always been open borders. They need a steady stream of likely future Democrat voters, because over time, they lose their grip on immigrant voters, and without super majorities of immigrant and minority voters, Democrats’ election prospects go south in a big way. But just like Democrat gun control proposals lead to total gun confiscation, the logic of their immigration policies leads to open borders. And so far, American voters reject both. So Democrats continue with a rhetoric war and step by step proposals, because they can’t come clean about their true objectives.
But as solutions are trashed, and rhetoric ramped up, the ability to use Charles Krauthammer-type persuasion disappears. There is simply not enough time left before the midterms for Democrats to shift gears toward advancing real proposals and convincing voters that they are correct. So we are stuck with ever-increasing Democrat vitriol and no hope of crafting solutions that require Democrats’ participation. Instead, we get things like Democrats claiming it is perfectly fine to deny restaurant service to people just because they work in the Trump administration, or comparing the temporary separation (according to law) of immigrant kids from their parents who have tried to enter the country illegally to the murdering of millions of Jews. The calculus is not that different from the media, namely that enough of the Democrat base will be rallied to offset the loss of those turned off by the extreme and illogical rhetoric. And Democrats wonder why rational folks are steadily moving the generic ballot toward the GOP.
Sadly, Trump has it right: It’s likely a waste of time to debate dueling immigration bills until there are enough congressional Republicans to command the vote. But the same can be said of anything that might be perceived as giving Trump a win. The only thing that has a shot at bringing back the Charles Krauthammer approach to logical debate is the midterms. If Democrats get a big enough slap in the face, then perhaps we have a chance at getting to logical, and even results-oriented, debate. Wouldn’t that be refreshing?