I try not to talk about politics on this blog. Not because I don’t think it’s important—it desperately is—but because my politics, as a queer woman, seem to be pretty obvious and I don’t have anything much to contribute.
But this Presidential election cycle is particularly frustrating to me, because Trump’s nomination, among many, many other things, has illuminated a massive problem with political dialogue in America—namely, that we don’t want to or have the necessary skills to practice it. Wherefore went the idea that we are all—liberal, conservative, what have you—heaving together on this great ship of an experiment?
I’ve read and listened to several things this week that’s revolved around this idea. Casting about for podcasts there wouldn’t be a third pass through the archives of the Flop House (although I nearly cried laughing at Chopin’s Goatables on the subway, so it’s still, you know, effective comedy for me), I chanced upon The New York Times‘ The Run-Up, a biweekly podcast about the election. It’s very NPR in style and thoughtful, complete with historical backgrounds on election topics like medical records.
What particularly struck me was a conversation the host, Michael Barbaro, had with Newt Gingrich in the first episode. These two men have conflicting political ideologies, and I will admit to having my stomach turn when Gingrich tries to defend Trump insulting the Khans by claiming that Khan picked a fight. (Ideally, there should be no point in any political cycle where you have to try and spin insulting a Gold Star family, and yet, here we are.) But I was particularly struck by how Barbaro and Gingrich were able to have a civil discussion about a sensitive topic they disagreed upon.
So Jill Lepore’s piece on political debate for The New Yorker came at the right time. Lepore talks about formal rules of debate, the history of televised debates, and the negative influence of celebrity culture on politics. Essentially, three things that have contributed to the breakdown of civil, reasoned political dialogue in America. I don’t have much to say about this piece, but it’s interesting background for and glue between The Run-Up and the conversation around Donald Trump’s appearance on The Tonight Show.
Specifically, this conversation at The A.V. Club over whether or not Fallon should have refused Trump’s appearance. The Tonight Show is a promotional vehicle, pure and simple—why should we hold a comedian to the same intellectual rigeur as a journalist? Is there a line based on how reprehensible the politician’s politics are? Should we blame The Tonight Show booker for participating in an application of celebrity culture to politics that’s only a symptom of? Is that the place for political discussion—and do we have real vehicles for political discussion anymore?
I don’t have the answers to any of these questions, but this is a discussion I think we need to have. Politics shouldn’t be a circus. Politics shouldn’t even be a competition. Politics should be a compromise. The United States is made up of people from all walks of life, and any elected official is representing a certain percentage of them. We have to work together to take care of each other, and the only way we’ll know how to do that is reasonable, civilized discussion.
Which I highly doubt we’ll get this week…