Have you ever realized how much of our public discourse is about bragging? Content seems so irrelevant to so many things and so much seems to be a demand for applause, for attention, for fame. So much seems to be about being noticed and getting the fame and the fans you claim you deserve. It seems so much 7th grade.
Much of the presidential campaign seems to be little more than “look at me…. look at me…..” There is no battle of ideas, just a battle for identity. “I am the kind of person you can count on, that you can believe in. The solution to your problems is not in the ideas or values I hold, but in the kind of person I am. Have faith… just have faith and it will be okay.”
The result has been bad theater. It would be situation comedy but it is just not very funny. You have people who think the only meaningful political issue is who has the most people applauding the loudest and will do basically anything to make that happen. We are left trying to choose a president from a collection of clowns and buffoons.
But it goes far past presidential politics. In Tennessee the only meaningful issue is whether you are Republican enough. The defeat of Insure Tennessee is not about a difference in policy as much as a confirmation of identity. It is about not being soft on Obamacare. It is not about what you believe. It is about who you are and the danger of being called the wrong kind of person.
A friend asked me if I still thought politics was possible. “Is it possible for a group of people to address the problems before them in a way not solely defined by the things that separate them and divide them, but also by the values and concerns that unite them?”
Is it possible for a legislative body to do more than nothing? Is it possible for a legislative body to do more than pass ornamental inconsequential laws and engage in mind numbing rhetorical nonsense? Can they do more than fiddle while Rome burns?
In Tennessee they did agree on the state assault rifle. Some months ago an 11 year old boy shot an 8 year old girl because she didn’t want him to play with his puppy with a gun left loaded by his parents. A bill to make parents responsible for leaving their children loaded guns was defeated overwhelmingly in a subcommittee by freedom loving Tennessee legislators. The battle to, regardless of issue or need, for Tennessee legislators to confirm and protect against any public scrutiny their identity as Republican enough was the story of the past session.
The problem is that the politics of bragging and posturing leaves real issues and real problems with real consequences untouched, unsolved, and even unnoticed for real people. Have you ever wondered what Congress actually does that is worth doing?
I can tell you who loses the competition of braggarts, the competition of people who think it is all about their importance…. Me… You.. All of us.
It is so much time for something better.