Letters to the Editor

Polarized positions

October 17, 2011


To the editor:

Some of the recent letters in this forum offer great examples of the widening gap and the growing polarization between Democrats and Republicans in our country. Supporters from each side routinely spew hyperbole which is based on opinion represented as fact, half-truths or even total fiction in an attempt to gain public support for their position. Ideologues on both sides utilize dishonesty, fear and ignorance to gather flocks of people, like sheep, for their own purpose.

It is most disturbing that at least some of those on each side actually believe that they know all the answers and take every opportunity to criticize and dismiss the ideas or actions of those with opposing views. Lacking facts, ideologues make their point by lying, exaggerating, name-calling or using sarcasm. They somehow feel justified because, after all, people who don’t believe like them must suffer from some combination of stupidity, meanness, naiveté, ignorance or elitism.

These extreme positions have gained so much traction in their respective parties that reasonable Americans are being forced to choose a side. It’s no longer about choosing representatives who are intelligent, fair-minded individuals who will thoughtfully represent me, my neighbor and all Americans, but rather, which extreme viewpoint am I most afraid of. For many citizens, it has become a choice of the lesser of two evils. Too bad.


Gandalf 6 years, 6 months ago

"For many citizens, it has become a choice of the lesser of two evils." That's because it HAS come down to the choice of the lesser of two evils. So long as extremes control their parties it won't get better.

It's not too hard to tell which party is more evil tho. Just look at guv brownie and koch's puppets.

labmonkey 6 years, 6 months ago

And you are an example of what the letter writer talks about.

Cait McKnelly 6 years, 6 months ago

My father, who died in 1994, once told me that for almost his entire voting life, every time he stepped into a poll booth he found himself, not voting for someone but voting against someone. Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose

appleaday 6 years, 6 months ago

And the worst of it is, with each election, or with each vote on any bill, one "side" wins, but the problems remain -- no solutions, no compromises, no working together to find answers to complex problems. Politics has become like a football game, with two sides constantly fighting against each other.

Brock Masters 6 years, 6 months ago

Nothing wrong with winning but it is how the "sides" go about it today. Instead of winning by being more competent, achieving more and doing more than the other side they "win" by tearing down the other side.

Abdu Omar 6 years, 6 months ago

No, no, no. Neither the democrats or the republicans should ever win! The American People should win, not a particular party. Why do we fall for that untruth? They are there to represent us (lower case) not themselves or their party. To hell with the party, do something for the people. That is what the Constitution is about. When a congressman or woman, votes against something that the party is against, he/she should ask themselves is this for the betterment of the people of this country. Not whipped into line to vote the party line. This whole idea of political parties is a sham for the American People. Show me where it benefits us.

Ron Holzwarth 6 years, 6 months ago

Political parties are not mentioned even once in the Constitution for a reason.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 6 years, 6 months ago

And it's you who is now throwing rocks. What a hypocrite.

weeslicket 6 years, 6 months ago

liberty one, please don't talk to me anymore, please.

actually, just don't talk to me or anyone anymore who isn't you. thanks.

Fossick 6 years, 6 months ago

"These extreme positions have gained so much traction in their respective parties that reasonable Americans are being forced to choose a side."

The entire purpose of having elections is to choose a side. There are lots of names, you pick one or you don't.

But the "extreme positions" claim really goes to show the letter writer's myopic perspective. There is very little of consequences that the Democrats and Republicans really differ about. Neither wants to overthrow the constitution, set up soviets, impose a king. Neither wants to jail or execute dissidents, both are willing to respect the results of elections.Both support generally free markets and generally free trade. Despite protest of one side or the other, neither is socialist much less communist. Despite protest of one side or the other, neither wants to eliminate the social safety net, or set up a fascist dictatorship. Both believe that it the government's job to run schools and ban lots of things that are bad for you. That fact that we have arguments about how these things are to be done doesn't change the fact that both sides believe they ought to be done.

At the risk of invoking Godwin but to pick a telling example, Germany in the 1920s had about 2 dozen political parties. On the left, the KPD and the MSPD wanted to overthrow the constitution and impose marxist rule. In the center/left, the Socialists (SPD) supported democracy, as did the Catholic party. On the right, the Nazis wanted to overthrow democracy for a dictatorship, while the rightist DVP worked with the leftist SPD against them. Other right-wing parties worked to restore the Kaiser, some had their own unions, and more than a few had their own armies. The Brownshirts get an occasional mention on this forum for some reason.

Considering the number of possible meaningful political positions a party could take, the fact that our parties differ on so few is indicative of the fact that we basically have two capitalist, democratic, republican center parties, one is just to the left and one just to the right of the other. Yes, they fight. But as with religion, the intensity of the fight is usually inversely proportional to the true importance of the thing being fought over.

nahurry 6 years, 6 months ago

Your comment is a great example of how ideologues "do" all the things mentioned in the letter- and you can add "use out of context quotes" to make a point. You suggest that the writer suffers from myopia because there is actually very little difference between the parties. The examples you gave to support that claim are so general in nature that it is like saying, "both parties support sunny days." Even with that said, it is likely that many people on either side would disagree that both parties want all of the things you suggest. I'm not sure what the intended purpose of your Germany comments was, however, in retrospect, there obviously was one party that won and history indicates that it was not the lesser of several evils.

Fossick 6 years, 6 months ago

"I'm not sure what the intended purpose of your Germany comments was..."

The intended purpose was to lend a little perspective. Imagine an America where the Democrats wished to overthrow the Constitution in favor of workers' committees, while the GOP wished to do away with elections and put Ronald Reagan junior on the throne. Where the Democrats fielded a literal army to go to the polls and beat up Republicans, and where the Republicans absolutely refused to abide by any election anywhere that they lost. An America where each party used the army to put down the other party, and where the army itself was involved in overthrowing state governments. None of that happens in America. All of that happens in various places in the world. They all happened to come together in Wiemar Germany, making it a nice contrast.

The beauty of your comment about 'sunshine' is that it so unconsciously illustrates the point. Both parties like the Constitution, democracy, pretty free markets, pretty free trade, democratizing others by force, money made of paper, obeying the Supreme Court, federal control over the states. Most Americans can't see how anyone else could possibly find them unpleasant or objectionable. They are like sunshine, self-evident goods that we accept without a second thought as Americans. It is these vast swaths of agreement (necessarily general in nature) that illustrate how little in reality the difference between the parties.

Sure, the partisans find the differences huge, because they stand within the tiny gap that separates the Dems and the GOP. But compared to all the political disagreements that have historically taken place here and abroad, are we seriously going to argue that whether the top marginal income tax rate is 42% vs 35% is a big difference?

weeslicket 6 years, 6 months ago

geeze. wtf w/ going all tea party and such.

verity 6 years, 6 months ago

So many comments here prove just what the letter writer is talking about and yet people do not seem to see themselves in the mirror.

Cait McKnelly 6 years, 6 months ago

(Cross posted from another article.) One of the things that has struck me in poll after poll is how deeply divided this country is and the fact that no one from either current party has made any attempt to bridge that divide. On the contrary, politicians have exploited that schism and encouraged their followers to deepen it. Just as myriad posters on this board use words like "teabagger" and "fleabagger" to discount and belittle the believers of philosophies in conflict with their own without any real attempt to recognize the complaints of their opponents,our "leaders" appear to be encouraging this behavior by their own obstructive actions in Congress. I fully admit that I have fallen into this trap myself but it's only been lately that it's occurred to me that we are all being manipulated and used. There is an old saying in law enforcement when investigating a crime; "Follow the money." I believe this is sound advice in this case. Who benefits? And are they using this country to divide us and, ultimately, conquer us? I'm not necessarily talking about another country. But when 47% of a country's GDP is being held by only 1% of it's population, something smells pretty rotten.

jafs 6 years, 6 months ago


But, also, interestingly, on many substantive issues, there is more agreement among the population than in Washington.

For example, something like 2/3 of people surveyed think we should both raise revenue and cut spending to deal with our budgetary problems.

And, the majority of those surveyed believe that wealth should be more evenly distributed.


nahurry 6 years, 6 months ago

Could you please clarify who "they" are and provide the source of your comment that "47% of country's GDP is in the hands of 1%."

nahurry 6 years, 6 months ago

Could you please clarify who "they" are and provide the source of your comment that "47% of country's GDP is in the hands of 1%."

Flap Doodle 6 years, 6 months ago

So, all of a sudden, the "*bagger" construction is offensive to you? Where have you been for the last year or so?

verity 6 years, 6 months ago

How about "Get the money out of politics"? What we have in government today will continue as long as politicians can be bought, and as long as they need exorbitant amounts of money to be elected or reelected, they will be able to be bought because only the kind who can be bought will be able to get that much money.

And Cait is dead on---we are all being manipulated.

Fossick 6 years, 6 months ago

"Which party puts their foots down, cries bloody murder if they don't get their way, and depicts compromise as "my way or the highway?""

That's not being extreme, it's merely being stubborn. Stubbornness is a natural tactic of the side that sees itself gaining in the next election. They simply have nothing to gain by settling now when they will be stronger in the near future. And yes, both sides engage in it, merely at different times. The language employed by Boehner today was the language employed by Pelosi in 2007, and for the same reason.

Fossick 6 years, 6 months ago

Here's one (but from 2008):

WASHINGTON — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Sunday ruled out a vote on new offshore oil drilling even as Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama said he might be open to a compromise that included it...

Pelosi called proposals to allow more offshore drilling a deceptive "decoy" rather than a solution and indicated she would bar a vote on any bill that included it. "I'm not giving the gavel away to a tactic … that supports the oil (companies), big oil at the cost and the expense of the consumer," she said on ABC's This Week. http://www.usatoday.com/money/industries/energy/2008-08-03-offshore_N.htm

I'm not sure if that's what you're looking for but it's what I see Boehner doing: using power over the rules and procedures rules not to reach compromise, but to avoid it. Now, why did she do it that way (besides the fact that she is genuinely against drilling)? Tom Mann of the Brookings Institution answers:

Her action "basically cools the passion of environmentalists, knowing it's not going anywhere, while he (is) open to compromise on a comprehensive package that would achieve many other objectives," Mann said. "It allows him to effectively have it both ways."

While Nancy's intransigence allowed Obama to look like he was open to compromise, it also signaled to the Dem/environmental base that there would be no compromise - there would not even be a vote. She could play to her base while allowing Obama to play to a much larger one.

She could afford to use this tactic because, with the expectation that Obama was about to be elected, she would be in a stronger position in a few months. Had it looked in 2008 like McCain was going to win and the GOP was going to sweep the House, you can bet she would have taken the best compromise she could get.

Compromise is not a always virtue just as stubbornness is not always a vice. Both are merely tactics that are used by both parties to reach or avoid solutions that are the real virtue or vice.

Fossick 6 years, 6 months ago

"I'm curious how one would expect her to compromise on this issue in any way."

I don't expect her to, but as for how she could, she could agree on a 100-mile or a 25-mile limit instead of 50, she could vote to limit the number or size of rigs. She could limit it to certain states or promote a state option. A clever girls like her could surely come up with others if she was so inclined. Compromise is not hard if it's what you're looking for, and decisions are very seldom binary. This one certainly is not.

As for it being 'a drop in the bucket,' do you seriously expect me to go back and list every place Nancy chose to kill legislation rather than compromise? You asked for a citation, I gave you one. If you are interested in more, Google is a great tool.

But if you are convinced that Nancy's intransigence is admirable while Cantor's is blameworthy, I would suggest that the real issue is not the tactics but the party. That's fine, but let's not pretend otherwise.

Fossick 6 years, 6 months ago

"which for all intents and purposes, has clearly shifted further to the Right."

I would contend, however, that the position ("to the right") and the tactics ("stubbornness") are unrelated. One can be a centrist and be perfectly stubborn, just like one can be a liberal or conservative open to compromise.

The question is to what extent one is willing to eschew agreement in order to 'play to the base' whatever that base is. Both parties do it, but only when it is in their interest to do so. Republicans are presently on the ascent, so it is right now in their interest to do so.

nahurry 6 years, 6 months ago

" If we truly examine both parties right now" - and at what point do you plan to truly examine both parties- you've already taken a position based on your comments, so your question is purely rhetorical.

jafs 6 years, 6 months ago

Perhaps his conclusion is based on his "true" examination of both parties.

nahurry 6 years, 6 months ago

Perhaps his conclusion is based on his "true" examination - you may be right- the key word is "his" true examination. If that is the case, I wonder why he didn't just state his obvious opinion rather than pretending to solicit real thought.

jafs 6 years, 6 months ago

Trying to "out" an anonymous poster is a violation of the tos.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 6 years, 6 months ago

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.

somedude20 6 years, 6 months ago

Who likes sex and fudgesicles?

"Try to see it my way Do I have to keep on talking Till I can't go on?

While you see it your way Run the risk of knowing that Our love may soon be gone We can work it out We can work it out

Think of what you're saying You can get it wrong and still You think that it's all right

Think of what I'm saying We can work it out and Get it straight or say good night We can work it out We can work it out

Life is very short And there's no time For fussing and fighting, my friend

I have always thought That it's a crime So I will ask you once again

Try to see it my way Only time will tell If I am right or I am wrong

While you see it your way There's a chance that we might Fall apart before too long We can work it out We can work it out

Life is very short And there's no time For fussing and fighting, my friend

I have always thought That it's a crime So I will ask you once again

Try to see it my way Only time will tell If I am right or I am wrong

While you see it your way There's a chance that we might Fall apart before too long We can work it out We can work it out"

Paul R Getto 6 years, 6 months ago

They don't call them wedge issues for nothing. Time Magazine has a good lead this week. I like it, naturally, because it supports my contention that 70-80% of the public just wants these folks to make decisions, suck it up and adjust services, taxes and budgets so we can get out of this mess over a generation or two. America still has the chance to be the shining city on the hill, but the centers of power are full of people with torches and pitchforks assaulting each other. It's time to grow up, America. The age of magic is over and we need to do a bit of 'rational thinking.' Anyone, Buhler? Anyone?

Carol Bowen 6 years, 6 months ago

"The Return of the Silent Majority." October 24 issue. It is a good article. A relief from the usual biases.

jayhawxrok 6 years, 6 months ago

Moderate Dems and Reps have more in common with each other than either does with the extremists in their own party.

jayhawklawrence 6 years, 6 months ago

I think we are entering a time in history when the acceptable margin of error from our political decisions is becoming less and less. Therefore, the process by which we arrive at decisions that effect the nation and world have to evolve. It cannot be a battle of rich vs. poor or survival of the fittest. That is an animal mentality.

Looking back at the real estate and financial bubble, it is hard to believe that this could be allowed to happen because it was unethical, immoral and illogical. We supposed that our best and brightest knew how to manage our economy correctly but they did not.

At the start of the George W. administration, I believed we had the most experienced team that I had seen ready to lead our nation. How wrong I was. In fiscal matters, foreign policy and the environment, these people were a disaster.

A serious problem lies in the fact that the American people believe too much of the rhetoric going on in todays politics and are aligning themselves with political parties that promote economic mythology.

Two facts are evident in my opinion. Government does not know how to manage money. The opposite side of that coin is that government does not know how to fairly collect taxes.

Because of these two problems, we are not planning for the future and we are not facing the biggest problem of all, adapting and planning for our survival in the new global economy.

Without a doubt, if we do not figure it out, we will continue to elect leaders who will make huge mistakes that cost us dearly.

I have probably visited and toured nearly 10,000 manufacturing companies across the United States and in Europe and Asian. It is amazing how many brilliant engineers we have in the world and innovative and talented geniuses who can make anything with their hands. I have watched the process of how decisions are made in successful companies that actually add value in this world. If any of them operated like our political system we would all be starving right now.

At the same time, these intelligent people will often vote for idiots to run the government because the process is flawed. We are not elevating the best and brightest to manage our government. Poor management also leads to a rise in costs. The cost of living is rising at a crushing rate and consuming millions of Americans.

I believe all Americans, rich and poor, are frustrated by this and we need to find a better way to fix this problem in a hurry.

Paul R Getto 6 years, 6 months ago

http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,2096838,00.html "Lacking facts, ideologues make their point by lying, exaggerating, name-calling or using sarcasm." === TIME mag deals with this in a recent issue. I agree we are letting the ideologues on both extremes of the spectrum run the show. Most folks just want a rational discussion and some plans to get out of the mess we created because we all want more than we are willing to pay for.

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