Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Bringing civility back to political yapping

As I’ve been mostly successful in my efforts to avoid writing anything overtly political over the 18 months, some new readers may wonder about my core beliefs. Here they are in a nutshell:

I’m a knee-jerk liberal whose knee jerks most liberally when it’s in the vicinity of a Christian conservative’s crotch.

I came to this foundational position during the Clinton impeachment follies.

We can disagree about what the meaning of the word “is” is, but I believed impeaching a busy president for having a consensual affair was a silly overreaction by hate-filled conservatives who in their spare time were enjoying multiple consensual affairs.

So as the agitated country became more and more polarized through Gore-Bush 2000, WMD, The Iraq War, Gitmo, Swift boats, Tea Party birther politics, ObamaCare and right up to today’s Baingate, my knee was doing more jerking than a one-legged man’s in a three-legged race.

That’s why I was so surprised to find myself engaged in something I’d almost forgotten how much I enjoyed: a charming political conversation with someone with whom I disagreed.

It was with Chuck, our tavern attorney.

I’d better clarify that. He’s the lead partner in the bar’s unincorporated firm of several lawyers who do pro bono work for the interesting people who fall afoul of the law in various colorful ways that happen when you add alcohol to stressful situations.

They help us overcome the self-inflicted perils of our DUIs, our divorces and drunken firearm violations. They help us with our wills, our property deeds and advise us over beers and bourbon about whether it’s better to run from the cops or just fall upon our knees, break down in shameful tears and weep for mercy.

So Chuck’s a good friend -- a good conservative friend.

And he reads my blog so he know’s my politics.

Maybe that’s why we rarely engage the topic. We’ve all over the last 10 years been so singed by divisive politics that thoughtful people are reluctant to mention in public our most important current events for fear an offended listener might enliven the discussion with self-righteous gunfire.

Because there are so few examples of it on TV or in the news, we’ve all forgotten how much fun political conversation between informed opposites can be.

Chuck and I bantered about history, colorful politicians, potential Romney VP picks, Obama’s re-election chances and other hot button topics that lead to bloodshed between less refined conversationalists.

The booze flowed and for a moment he was Ronald Reagan and I was Tip O’Neill, two partisans still hailed today for their ability to set aside political disagreements and come together for alcoholic refreshment and collegial BS for when the day is done.

It’s confounding that Washington can no longer function like that.

I’m pleased because this marks a happy trajectory for me that began when I vowed I was going to be less politically antagonistic back in January 2011. It started with the shooting of Gabby Giffords and President Obama’s call for more civility in political discourse.

I did my part the very next day when I wrote this piece where I said nice things about George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Sarah Palin, Rush Limbaugh and other conservatives I used to routinely mock.

Sadly, I don’t think my dream of a more polite electorate will ever be achieved. Too many people are addicted to talk radio, America’s greatest obstacle to clear thinking.

The people who earn their living talking on the radio -- and there’s no denying the GOP owns the yap gap -- have a vested interest in keeping their listeners crazy so the demonization is unlikely to abate.

I’m convinced common ground will evade liberals and conservatives right up until the extra-terrestrials show up and start eating without discrimination the both of us. That will certainly help clarify party positions on illegal alien issues.

Until then, I’m fairly certain disharmony will rule.

Heck, it even happened between Chuck and I during our happy little powwow. He said Tip O’Neill, speaker of the house attributed his political longevity to his conviction that “all politics are local.”

I insisted Chuck was wrong and that O’Neill had been historically misquoted.

In fact, all politics are loco.

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