How’s That Civility Stuff Working Out, Tom?

The American political system was, as the saying goes, “designed by geniuses so it could be run by idiots.” But a cocktail of political and technological trends have converged in the last decade that are making it possible for the idiots of all political stripes to overwhelm and paralyze the genius of our system.

Those factors are: the wild excess of money in politics; the gerrymandering of political districts, making them permanently Republican or Democratic and erasing the political middle; a 24/7 cable news cycle that makes all politics a daily battle of tactics that overwhelm strategic thinking; and a blogosphere that at its best enriches our debates, adding new checks on the establishment, and at its worst coarsens our debates to a whole new level, giving a new power to anonymous slanderers to send lies around the world. Finally, on top of it all, we now have a permanent presidential campaign that encourages all partisanship, all the time among our leading politicians.

I would argue that together these changes add up to a difference of degree that is a difference in kind — a different kind of American political scene that makes me wonder whether we can seriously discuss serious issues any longer and make decisions on the basis of the national interest.

We can’t change this overnight, but what we can change, and must change, is people crossing the line between criticizing the president and tacitly encouraging the unthinkable and the unforgivable.

Thomas Friedman, New York Times, September 30, 2009

The Republicans’ health care plan for America: Don’t get sick. That’s right. Don’t get sick. If you have insurance, don’t get sick. If you don’t have insurance, don’t get sick. If you are sick, don’t get sick. Just don’t get sick. That’s what the Republicans have in mind for you, America. That’s the Republicans’ health care plan. But I think that the Republicans understand that that plan isn’t always going to work. It is not a foolproof plan. So the Republicans have a back-up plan in case you do get sick. If you get sick in America, this is what the Republicans want you to do. If you get sick, America, the Republican health care plan is this: Die quickly. That’s right. The Republicans want you to die quickly if you get sick.

Hon. Alan Grayson (D.-FL), September 29, 2009

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