Commentary: Believe it or not, there was a time in America not long ago when people were not totally absorbed and obsessed with politics and political soap opera. Local and state elections came along and people learned about the candidates for a few weeks and made their choices and that was it. The presidential race came along less frequently and the candidates would appear on the evening news for a few weeks before the election and then you voted and that was it. There was peace for a while. You didn’t see or hear much about these folks except for a newspaper story or two each day and a quick appearance on the nightly news.
Everyone else out in America was getting along quite fine with their lives, or at least trying to. No daily barrage of voices from the radio talking about every single thing the President or a member of Congress may have done that day. No political talk shows on cable networks catering to a certain political flavor or demographic. No internet talking points to spread endlessly all over the web. No arguments erupting while folks stood in line at the grocery store or anywhere else two or more people might happen to gather. Yes, there was such a world.
Now, it’s twenty-four hour politics for 365 days a year. There’s no place to hide. People want to know which side you support as a kind of litmus test as to whether they can try to have a conversation with you or whether they already sent you to a place of oblivion of their choosing.
This may have started in earnest with the national talk radio hosts who began to rail against the other political party they didn’t like and speak all day long about how horrible the other side was and how wonderful their political party was. We’ve been living with that environment for over forty years now. Many media corporations merged and most all local programming was terminated so countless stations could carry these handful of loud voices over more of the airwaves. Now there are thousands of stations carrying the same tones and opinions of a minuscule handle of Americans who claim to possess all truth. These opinion molders invaded modern society with a vengeance. Cable television then adopted the same play book of overhyped and hyperventilating partisans bickering all day about how great their side is and how horrible the other side is. Really, how many times do you need to see and hear the same story plot lines over and over and over?
But a lot of people seem to love it and so this sad game goes on. Big corporate media giants are making their money. The self-appointed truth arbiters find daily ways to breath life into worn out plot lines that long ago lost any real vitality. People turning on the radio or watching political cable or websites crave to hear others reinforcing their chosen political allegiances. Lost in all this is everything else in life that gets sidelined or ignored because politics uses up so much of our time and energy.
Does anyone think we are better off living in this amped-up political slugfest? Is anything useful getting accomplished? Is this in any way contributing to fostering a positive national climate of cooperation and advancement? Or is all this a process just a process to divide for division’s sake?
There is an old saying that all things are best in moderation. This lesson also applies to politics. We don’t need politics acting as another religion.
Can we live without a daily barrage of people on the radio talking about every single thing the President or a member of Congress may have done that day? Can we live without cable networks that cater to their political flavor? Could we refrain from passing along political talking points endlessly all over the web? Could we avoid arguments while standing in line at the grocery store or anywhere else two of us might gather? Could these media giants do something more useful with the huge platforms they’ve built?
And does anyone even care to try?