“To govern means to rectify. If you set an example by being correct, who will dare to remain incorrect?” – Confucius, The Analects, Book 12
There’s weariness in repetition, especially if it’s a task full of negative emotion. It breaks one down mentally, physically, and spiritually. When labor becomes unavoidable toil, it’s hard to find the willpower to continue. Even discipline fails after a while, especially if the task is distasteful, and actually accomplishing it seems remote at best.
I’m sick of the Republican Party. They’re a bad movie with a painfully predictable plot; a stale punch line from a hack comedian; a sit-com you know is going to be cancelled just from the commercial. They’re not even worthy opponents anymore; one you can respect for their composure and fortitude even though they represent everything you’re against.
They don’t have leaders, merely office holders. There is no coherent, reality based party platform. There are no pundits inside the tent that hold them accountable. Those who’ve tried have been cast out. (See: David Frum) In short there is no attempt to rectify either themselves or the ills of the country. To do so would require ownership of the mess they had a significant hand in creating.
This manifestation of cognitive dissonance, of simply not fucking getting it, was on full display last night during Bill O’Reilly’s interview with President Obama before Super Bowl XLVIII. The questions Bill O’Reilly asked seemed hard hitting, only if you lived in the Fox News epistemic bubble. For the rest of us, those who live in the reality based world, they were nonsense. Will Ferrell as Harry Caray would’ve inadvertently asked more revealing questions.
Most of the criticism lobbed at me is that I’m just another partisan. “Fred, you never talk about the corruption in the Democratic Party! They’re just as bad!” Usually, the first part of that argument translates into “You’re not upholding my personal bias!” which either manifests into a false equivalence fallacy that both main political parties are equally corrupt or the person is a Republican supporter.
There’s a difference of scale, in terms of corruption and hypocrisy, between the Democrats and the Republicans. There are things about the Democratic Party and the Obama Administration that I find infuriating, my biggest is not appropriately punishing Wall Street for their transgressions, but they are nowhere near the GOP.
This goes beyond any single issue, even beyond the hubris of the GOP. This is a systematic cancer that’s threatening our entire republic. We will never, ever have an honest debate about the issues that are in desperate need of one: economic inequality, our role as the world’s policeman i.e. American imperialism, privacy in the digital age, social justice and equality, when one major party refuses to play by the rules, to at least acknowledge reality. Because of this dynamic we’ll never have an honest debate. We’ll spend all of our time correcting GOP falsehoods and the Democrats can remain less shitty. They don’t have to try very hard because they can say “Hey we’re not that crazy.”
Even if a viable third party were to emerge, they’d still have to deal with this dynamic. It’s not a question of making the Democrats better or both parties are equally horrible, it’s setting up boundaries for everyone, no matter which party. It’s saying if you want to represent our republic, you have to be serious. If we want to live up to our potential, to be an example of Exceptionalism, then we have to demand that from our leaders, and our media. We have to demand they adhere to a standard of truth, even if it’s only a smidgen.
That will never happen as long as one party is allowed to ignore that standard.
Objective truth, simply determining if something is true or false based on reason and evidence, is a crucial component that is foundationally essential for a healthy democratic society. Without it, there is only a mockery of liberty. Freedom becomes a sham. It stalls a fundamental aspect of our humanity: Progress.
It’s almost comical to talk about truth in the context of politics. Politics is a contact sport, one where invective and slander, both subtle and outright, pays big dividends. It’s why there’s so much money involved in politics, because there’s even more to be made from it. Truth-telling and profit motivation aren’t synonymous. In fact, more often than not, they’re at odds. But without at least a sliver of truth, without politicians being held accountable to reality, at some point, we have no chance, none, nada, zip, zero, zilch at moving forward as a people.
The GOP won’t stop. Why should they if they’re never held to account for their actions? Why should they if their lies pay off in terms of winning elections? Why should they when “journalists” like Chuck Todd claim it’s not his job to fact check the GOP? Why should they when mainstream media let the Bush Administration lie its way into a disastrous war in Iraq? Who cares about what Obamacare actually is, or what actually happened at Benghazi when you can just make shit up? You’re not held to account for what you say, so fuck it. If you list every sin a public official commits, but endorse him anyway, you’re giving legitimacy to his behavior. If you say that journalism is merely a platform for both parties to present their talking points, but don’t fact check those talking points, then you’re Jerry Springer. It’s about the spectacle, not the solution.
The mark of a leader is someone who speaks uncomfortable truths to those above and below him. It’s telling your constituents that other people who don’t look like them, whose lifestyle they don’t agree with, deserve dignity. Because this is America all people are worth something, even the least among us. We value their humanity, not their level of conformity. That’s the potential of America.
When leaders lie, when a major political party embraces falsehoods, and fabrication because their faithful would rather believe a fairy-tale than something factual your society is on the road to ruin.