A curious kind of politics is emerging... curious because at a time when the Internet has made a publisher and writer (if not expert) out of everyone... the resulting political discourse is surprisingly stunted.
I say "stunted" because what we have here as a side-effect of the immediacy of the Internet... is a kind of hair-trigger micro-response to each and every trivial movement the "political adversary" makes.
So we have endless jihads, near-religious wars and tirades set off by the merest verbal gaffe. Intricate punditry, "tea-leaf reading" and windy bloviation over the symbolism of this person or that one seen at the candidate's right, or left.
Each utterance causes the blogosphere to light up in mock outrage, emitting at least an equal or greater reciprocal offense, and still the sense of vindication is elusive. The war over trivia goes on, and on. The posture of offendedness is nearly a habit. One wonders what this does for blood pressure and marital harmony. What a way to live life, no?
Former Gov. Mark Warner said something quite interesting in the run-up to the Democratic convention. He said words to the effect that "good ideas don't have a D or an R attached to them." This is a refreshing, post-partisan way to look at... or should I say look for good government. Competence and pragmatic effectiveness, substance over style and symbolism.
Candidate Obama demonstrated an equally interesting and refreshing approach, addressing some of the divisive issues that have stumped the "professionals" of governance in Washington... topics like guns, abortion, energy.
On the abortion topic, Obama spoke straighter than anyone I've EVER heard on this topic. He said in effect "we may not be able to agree on abortion, but can't we agree that we need to reduce unwanted pregnancies?"
Concerning gun ownership, he said that "guns mean one thing to hunters and sportsmen, and another in a crime-ridden inner city... but can't we agree on keeping AK-47s out of the hands of gang members?"
These of course are paraphrases; don't let minor nuances in the language trigger a holy war over syntax. Or do, whatever. The Internet, after all, facilitates instantaneous expression with the ease of pressing the "submit" button. Heaven forbid anyone ask us to use a little bit of impulse control. A balanced conversation is boring, let's have us a flame war!!
My point here is that the instant reaction is taking us all down a road where decisions are made on the most trivial foundations... emotions, misquotes, putting words in others' mouths, mind games...
I'd like to see from both sides, and from the "fans of political process", a little more circumspection before hitting that submit button, publishing another tirade purporting to dismantle the other candidate once and for all based on the unproven, the matter-of-opinion, and ultimately the microscopically trivial.
Republicans in particular are going to have to learn to restrict themselves from this defensive hair-trigger responsiveness. This over-ready reaction must come from knowing that our Republican president has not been a competent steward of the national interest, and an unwillingness out of pride to own up to that.
John McCain might stand a chance in November if the American public saw in him the kind of upright straight-talker who owns up... and spoke proactively about his plan... rather than firing off a reactive, quibbling and trivial counter-assertion to everything a Democrat says.
We shall see...