Intelligent, civil discourse died this political season. It has been slain by a ruling class eager to make us fear what we don’t know, to hate whom or what we do not understand. And that class, consisting of perhaps 400 individuals or families, has succeeded beyond its most selfish dreams.
Come Tuesday, voter turnout will be low. Pundits will offer reasons: mid-terms draw fewer voters; voters are too busy; voters are turned off by “complicated” issues; voters can’t find the truth amid the shouting and naysaying. Or no one really gives a damn.
The House and Senate may switch poles from blue to red; it will not matter. Discourse is dead.
Those elected or re-elected are merely those favored by people whose names we do not know who provided the hundreds of millions of dollars anonymously to persuade you that Candidate A is a worse choice than Candidate B because he or she is 1) gay, 2) straight but hiding gay, 3) truly sorry about that just one time with a madam; 4) regretful that the military experience on his or her résumé has been misrepresented by his or her campaign staff; 5) deeply sorry he inadvertently said (in an ad whose message he approved) that a vote for his opponent “would be a criminal act” and 6) really really sorry he called the president of the United States a liar.
Yep. Nov. 3 begins a lengthy mourning over the death of civil discourse. Lord knows it had been ill in Congress for decades. The funeral notice will observe that “discourse suffered from a lengthy illness hastened by a lack of attention.”
But we are not innocent bystanders at this funeral. We helped kill discourse. We have allowed the erosion of civility by not demanding that those with the largest megaphones — politicians, rock stars, celebrities famous for being famous, CEO’s, union heads, media moguls, Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, Keith Olbermann, even the former and current presidents of these disunited states — shut the fuck up when they nothing meaningful or intelligent to say.
We said nothing. In the political arena, our silence is permission for others to pour forth words that sure sound good, that offer hope to the hopeless, but, in the end, are merely venomous codes for lying.
As we slog to the end of this horrid season of mud sculpture masquerading as politics, we are as much to blame for the impending result as the miscreants who have hidden their millions of dollars of campaign spending behind the opaque screens of 501c (3) or (4) or (6) tax vehicles. We saw the ads. We heard the robo-calls. Did any of us pick up the phone and bitch about them to the FEC or the candidates themselves? Naw. That seemed useless, didn’t it?
Oh, don’t tell me that we had no choice. Don’t tell me that the megaphones of the multimillionaires and multibillionaires were just too damn loud to offer a whisper of protest. That’s bullshit. Too many of us said nothing, resigned to letting a process controlled by well-heeled, political elites play out. And I was as silent as anyone. And I am ashamed.
We chose to say nothing. We were too busy — trying to find jobs, trying to get mortgage modifications on our underwater homes, trying to figure out how to pay for our children’s college tuition, trying to find the money to pay for health care.
Let others pick up the fight, we thought. Some one will. And there were some — Project Sunlight, Change Congress, Free Press … they did the heavy lifting with far fewer resources.
As a result, we will have a Congress filled with people who, as individuals, will sound as solid and sincere as the Rock of Gibraltar. But en masse, they represent the interests of the richest of the rich people with millions and billions of dollars invested in getting what they want out of Congress. And they will. Members of Congress owe them.
It will not matter who controls Congress. It will not matter if Republicans or Democrats win the House or the Senate. Because neither will. Money — incredibly big money — will win.
And we have to figure out a way to get that really big money the hell out of Congress. If we don’t, the continued redistribution of income — upward, as it has always been — will continue.