"No experiment can be more interesting than that we are now trying, and which we trust will end in establishing the fact, that man may be governed by reason and truth. Our first object should therefore be, to leave open to him all the avenues to truth. The most effectual hitherto found, is the freedom of the press. It is, therefore, the first shut up by those who fear the investigation of their actions." --Thomas Jefferson to John Tyler, 1804.

Corrosion or cancer: Damage either way

Barrett Rainey
Second Thoughts

Something very strange is going to happen when the 2012 presidential election is over. Something I don’t think ever happened before in my long lifetime. The winner will be the guy who got the most votes from people who hated the other guy even more.

Bit of a twist in there, eh? Go back and read that last sentence again.

Put another way, more people who don’t like the guy they’re voting for dislike that other fella more.

Proof of this comes from more than a few national polls in recent weeks. The last Gallup sampling on this question of “likeability” among likely voters showed four in 10 pledging to vote for Mitt Romney even though they didn’t like him but didn’t like Barack Obama more. Pew Research got nearly the same result.

I’d been thinking about how negative voting – and outright hatred – could chose the next president, but sort of tucked the destructive thoughts away. But Sunday on “Meet The Press,” NBC’s Political Director Chuck Todd erupted during comments from other guests. Unusual for a normally quiet guy like Todd. But the passion of his words was even more noticeable. And what he said brought those negative voting findings to mind.

Newt Gingrich was spewing forth another “I hate the President” outburst he’s famous for. And former GE CEO Jack Welch was again claiming a Democrat Party “fix” to lower national unemployment numbers to favor the current administration.

Todd apparently couldn’t stand it anymore.

“This is really making me crazy,” the normally unflappable, statistical guru of NBC News broke in. “The Federal Reserve gets questioned for politics these days. The Supreme Court. (Chief Justice) John Roberts. We have corroded.”

The conversation stopped and Todd spoke again.

“What we’re doing, we’re corroding trust in our government in a way, and one-time responsible people are doing so to control it. The idea that Donald Trump and Jack Welch – rich people with crazy conspiracies – can get traction on this is a bad trend.” Host David Gregory went to commercial.

Todd’s outburst – more emotional than intellectual – was spot on! By giving credence to haters, electing incompetents to office, exalting hate radio voices as spokesmen, circulating anonymous hate emails by the millions every day on the I-net and blindly accepting the crap spewed by ignorant political “celebrities” who fill our living rooms nightly, we’re creating great weaknesses in the very government we need to survive as a nation. It used to be if someone “famous” said something stupid, it wasn’t news. Now, far, far too often, it IS the news.

Other polls – far too many other polls – have found huge numbers of American citizens know little to nothing about how government operates. A week ago, Pew Research found only 33 percent sampled could name the vice presidential candidate on the Republican ticket. One in three! Where the Hell have they been?

Evidence is overwhelming that citizens of this country know much less about their system of government than most other developed countries. Why that is, who’s responsible and what can be done about it are subjects that would take too long to develop here. But the oft-proven fact is, too many people don’t pay attention until something touches them – war, taxes, disasters, etc.

When that ignorance is coupled with acceptance of the hate speech now overwhelming our national politics, and broadcast and other lies are accepted as fact, corrosion of our belief in our system of government is the only possible outcome.

A sitting member of Congress has widely claimed some 80 Democrats in the House of Representative are Communists. We have some 30 members of that body signed onto a ‘document” claiming President Obama is a foreign national or not otherwise accepting his U.S. citizenship.. Paul Ryan’s “legitimate rape” bill drew 17 co-sponsors. Mental midgets like Bachman, Walsh, Gohmert et al are making the laws under which we live. Why?

Each member of the House is supposed to represent about 700 thousand constituents. Do these incompetent fools really have that many supporters who mark a ballot for them? Who believe what they stand for? The answers must be “yes” because they exist as “representatives” of our political system. None of these folks – and many more not named – belong in office if you want a functioning democracy. But there they are.

One need look no further than the national Republican Party over the last year or two to see good people sitting on the sidelines and crazies being allowed free run. Romney took the primary simply because he was the least objectionable. Can my Republican friends really tell me the crop in the presidential primary was the “best of the best?” Were there really no other sane, competent, sharp, politically-experienced Republicans who could have more properly represented the bulk of the party? No one better and more qualified comes to mind? No one?

The truth is – the good ones – the sharp ones – the competent ones – “took a pass” and yielded the presidential race to the crazies who showed up. In their own way, the better-qualified Republicans added to the corrosion of government Todd was talking about. Rather than get in the fray with better ideas, better political backgrounds, better appeal to thinking Americans, they stayed safe on the sidelines. Waiting for 2016 and an open presidency.

Todd’s use of the word “corroded” is kinder and gentler than my use of the word “cancer.” But we’re both being emotionally and intellectually moved by the same sick source, eating away at our trust in things governmental. Hate. Distrust. Fear. Anger. Crazies. Ignorance.

I believe it is a cancer being given fertile ground by anti-intellectual and dangerous voices both in and out of government. It’s being nourished by people like Gingrich, Santorum, Bachman, Paul (2), West and others who have been given too much credence for their smallness of mind. We’ve allowed our school systems to graduate civic illiterates who then become illiterate voters. We’ve accepted the Limbaughs and Becks and Savages of the world as “authorities” rather than the instigators of mistrust and hate they really are.

We’ve not demanded the best and the most competent. We’ve not aided our democracy by being an informed electorate. Corrosion in American’s trust in government. The cancer that’s eating the guts of this nation. Neither could exist were it not for our acceptance of the unacceptable.

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