Winston Churchill once said that the greatest argument against democracy was to spend five minutes with the average voter. Now I don't believe that Churchill was altogether entirely serious about this statement, and I'm not saying by any means that I agree with it. However, as I reflect on the past two years, I can't help thinking that it does contain some kernel of truth. The past election cycle has been an astounding display of fear-mongering, hysteria and demagoguery. In other words, we as an entire nation have been proving Mr. Churchill's point. Before I go any further, I want to make clear that this is not necessarily a political article in a partisan sense. I'm not trying to lay blame at the feet of either party, nor do I absolve myself of responsibility either; because I know that I am just as guilty as the next person.
In the past two years, our country has witnessed the passage not only of landmark pieces of legislation, but also of landmark amounts of legislation. Whether you agree with the Obama Administration and the Congressional Democrats or not, it can't be denied that they have been busy in this past election cycle. Obama and the Dems have passed universal health insurance, a landmark revision to financial regulations, what has been described as a watershed change to the criminal justice system and an enormous stimulus bill giving billions to fix infrastructure. In addition, they have also amended the 1964 Civil Rights Act relating to equal pay for equal work, signed a nuclear arms deal with Russia reducing arms by 33 percent, passed new hate crimes prevention legislation, fired two commanding generals, overhauled the student loan system and canceled an entire weapons system (which almost never happens). The list goes on and on. In the past two years, the government has been anything but idle.
This colossal list of achievements accomplished in the first two terms of a presidency is said by many to be unrivaled since FDR's first term in office. One would hope that such a high volume of controversial federal activity would give rise to a high volume of substantive public debate. Take health care for example: forget about death panels and bartering chickens, the sheer question of constitutionality raised is tremendous. Or hate crime legislation: should the government really be legislating against what people are thinking? The list of serious questions raised is endless. Again, I'm not trying to promote one political position over another. I am saying that as a nation, we must, substantively and not hysterically, debate the actions and legislations of the Obama administration.
In the past two years, America has seen much, and I use this term loosely, debate about the actions of the Democrat-controlled government; what has been lacking on both sides of the aisle is the substantive part. Instead we have seen shouting matches, poor communication, absurd political ads, fear mongering and straight up demagoguery by both parties. The Democrats and Republicans are now more at odds than they have been in at least a generation, and we are seeing a nigh-complete vacuum of bipartisanship. This political setting has given us a situation in which neither side is willing to give the other an inch, and it seems like everything is calculated to score the cheap political point. In an election cycle where so many intelligent, important, and substantive discussions could have been held between not just politicians, but also between neighbors, coworkers, and friends, what we have seen for the most part is raving histrionics.
Again, whether or not you agree with President Obama and the Congressional Democrats, they have just pitched America a big, fat, softball, right down the middle of the plate; a watermelon for both parties to hit to the fences in the name more intelligent public discourse. The ideological and constitutional questions which have been raised are enormous, and could have given America the opportunity to have real, substantive discussions. These questions give us the opportunity to elevate the tone and intelligence of public discourse above petty bickering. Sadly, we, collectively as a country, have missed the pitch. I can only hope that in the remaining months of this election season, and the greater future, the better aspects of our nature will win out in the name of substantive and civil public debate to prove Mr. Churchill wrong.