Is political discourse at an all-time low?

October 29, 2010 11:45 am

by Jason · 31 comments

This last year has seen its share of attack ads. My family, friends and co-workers are complaining about the ad war between Nathan Deal and Roy Barnes. And just about every race across the state and country has seen a healthy dose of tearing down candidates.

Pundits, politicians and an ex-president tell us that political discourse in this country is at an all time low…except it’s not.

CobbGOPer October 29, 2010 at 12:09 pm

“Suppose you were an idiot and suppose you were a member of Congress. But I repeat myself.”

– Mark Twain

CobbGOPer October 29, 2010 at 12:13 pm

“Conservative, n: A statesman who is enamored of existing evils, as distinguished from the Liberal who wishes to replace them with others.”

– Ambrose Bierce, The Devil’s Dictionary

ZazaPachulia October 29, 2010 at 12:17 pm

Well, yeah… But they also kept human slaves in 1800; slaves, women and poor people were disenfranchised, and only the rich read newspapers. An attack back then is not comparable to an attack now. Remember, the early days weren’t exactly a stellar representation of ethics, civil rights, etc. and the media was nowhere near as ubiquitous as it is now.

There’s no getting around that this campaign is dirty. Is it dirtier than LBJ’s daisy commercial? Or The Willie Horton stuff? Or Saxby’s infamous Osama, Sadam, Cleleand ad? Probably not, but it sure ain’t civil. And it seems dirtier and more negative than the last cycle.

Jason October 29, 2010 at 12:20 pm

I don’t know, calling someone a hermaphrodite strikes me as pretty bad.

American Delight October 29, 2010 at 12:49 pm

Let’s see… Jefferson owned slaves, so that means that his negative campaigning “doesn’t count,” therefore modern negative campaigning is a first.

You must have taken a logic course from Georgia Tech!

ZazaPachulia October 29, 2010 at 1:25 pm

Umm… no, my point was that it ain’t 1800 anymore. We don’t tar and feather thieves. We recognize slavery as morally repugnant. We actually allow women, minorities and poor people access to the ballot. The standards of decency have changed greatly since 1800.

The second point is that attack ads are much more ubiquitous now than they were back when low-circulation newspapers and books were the only media in the entire country.

A nasty attack column found on page 6 of the May, 4, 1800 ‘Newport Statesman’ has much more in common with the raving unsubstantiated attacks found in far-out blogs (see: certain ‘wifebeater’ comments floating around the fringes of the web), than any televised campaign ad. You simply can’t compare the two. The people who do are just as short-sighted and simplistic as those who insist that “This is the dirtiest year on record!”

polisavvy October 29, 2010 at 1:27 pm

Good point, Zaza.

David Staples October 29, 2010 at 3:30 pm

“A nasty attack column found on page 6 of the May, 4, 1800 ‘Newport Statesman’ has much more in common with the raving unsubstantiated attacks found in far-out blogs (see: certain ‘wifebeater’ comments floating around the fringes of the web), than any televised campaign ad.”

Or a certain blogger who once called someone a “goat f**king child molester? ;-)

Ken in Eastman October 30, 2010 at 8:40 pm

Do Supreme Court Justices actually count?

David Staples October 29, 2010 at 3:29 pm

“Let’s see… Jefferson owned slaves, so that means that his negative campaigning “doesn’t count,” therefore modern negative campaigning is a first.

You must have taken a logic course from Georgia Tech!”

And you must have taken a logic course from UGA or K-Mart if you didn’t understand Zaza’s point.

griftdrift October 29, 2010 at 12:37 pm

In the past I would have agreed with you Jason. But now, I say it’s getting close.

David Staples October 29, 2010 at 12:46 pm

My question is… what’s so bad about a nutmeg dealer?

polisavvy October 29, 2010 at 12:51 pm

I have to admit that I, too, am sick of all the negativity and attacks. Maybe I’m tripping; but, it seems to be among the worse this political season.

rugby October 29, 2010 at 1:01 pm

That we are living in an era of new found incivility is one of, if not the greatest, canards in American politics.

CobbGOPer October 29, 2010 at 1:06 pm

“…new found incivility…”? Where have you been? If anything, it’s much better today than it was in the past. At least today our congressmen don’t club each other in the House aisles. I call that improvement.

polisavvy October 29, 2010 at 1:07 pm

I agree with you on this one, rugby. You are correct in that people have become less and less civil with every new election cycle. Gee, can’t wait for ’12 (said with great sarcasm). ;)

CobbGOPer October 29, 2010 at 1:08 pm

The fact that our legislators don’t club each other in the aisles anymore should be seen as improvement.

rugby October 29, 2010 at 1:43 pm

That’s still inaccurate. There used to be fistfights on the floor of the U.S. House. A sitting POTUS once said he had to go to great lengths to restrain himself from knocking someone out while having a discussion in the White House.

And none of this is to say anything about what used to be said about candidates.

Sure there was a period a few decades ago where politicians were more civil (although hearing some of the pro-segregationist speeches it is hard to believe that) but there wasn’t as strong an ideological divide between politicians.

polisavvy October 29, 2010 at 1:48 pm

I guess you’re right. I have just grown weary of all the negativity. It’s everywhere and, unfortunately, it’s on the television all the time. I miss the days of civility. I wish people would just run on the issues and leave all the personal attacks out of their campaigns. I agree with you about the ideological divide — it’s tremendous now.

rugby October 29, 2010 at 2:33 pm

In my post I didn’t mean “inaccurate” in a bad way.

Who said political civility is dead?

polisavvy October 29, 2010 at 2:41 pm

I didn’t think anything about your post was negative. Quite to the contrary. I meant to imply that I think civility is pretty dead. I can’t think of many races this political season that didn’t become mean spirited. Guess I’m just election-fatigued!

CobbGOPer October 29, 2010 at 1:09 pm

What’s up, am I not allowed to post or something? Am I banned? Why are my posts not publishing?

Max Power October 29, 2010 at 2:41 pm

Just because it’s not new doesn’t mean we should accept it.

polisavvy October 29, 2010 at 2:44 pm

I agree. I think we should be able to expect more from the candidates than some of the garbage that’s been peddle this cycle. It’s gotten old.

rugby October 29, 2010 at 3:21 pm

You’re both fools!

polisavvy October 29, 2010 at 3:28 pm

Gee, thanks. That’s probably the nicest thing anyone will say to me all day.

eschristian October 29, 2010 at 4:02 pm

Well – I can’t stand Barnes or Deal so their little feud annoys me. I don’t think that I would say it is worse than in the past because of the ads. I think political polarization is just at an all time high because of what statists at every level of government has done to upset common sense Americans who feel as though they have been Taxed Enough Already!!! Therefore, any views from the opposition regardless of which side of the political spectrum can be annoying.

I guess in Barnes & Deals case what makes me mad is they are attacking each other left and right in their ads but during the recent debate I saw that I think was moderated by Brenda Woods from channel 11 had with Monds/Barnes/Deal there were only two points of view that stood out to me – Monds emphasized smaller government and get government out of the way and out of our pocketbooks & the other two pretty much agreed or had similar answers on at least 90% of the debate. Makes me feel good about my vote next Tuesday for Gov ; )

Machette October 29, 2010 at 4:31 pm

In 1800 Americans weren’t forced to hand over 30 to 50% of their earnings to a wasteful, deceptive, oppressive, unresponsive, ego-bloated, and dishonest government.

We own the right to be pissed. If it were still 1800, we could duel. In 2010 we can only blog.

B Balz October 29, 2010 at 5:49 pm

Three things, two from Mr. Charlie Cook (Cook Report, about five years ago answering the question of gridlock in WDC and the general lack of civility.

The last point of the power of blogging vs. citizen advocacy.

1.) Charlie made the point that lawmakers in WDC now come home on the weekends. While staying in WDC, it is hard to be completely uncivil to someone you may see in church, PTA, socially. That your wife is BFF with, etc.,

2.) Legislative Districts are custom designed around the type of voters, Dem or GOP. The lawmaker essentially ‘dials-in’ the demographics, and sophisticated computer modeling ensures a District that keep them in office.

3.) Lastly, your voice, coupled with others actually works to make change. To be otherwise means we have now say, and i am not willing to concede that point.

Bill Mauldin October 30, 2010 at 4:28 pm

A detailed look at American political history would show that the political attacks of today are rated “G” when compared to those of the 1800’s. Take a detailed look at the Andrew Jackson campaigns for President..

MSBassSinger October 30, 2010 at 7:40 pm

Keep in mind that Washington vehemently opposed Jefferson becoming President based on Jefferson’s character.

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