There is a short segment at the end of Countdown with Keith Olbermann that encapsulates everything that is wrong with our country’s political atmosphere. The segment is The Worst Person in the World, and consists of Olbermann naming three people in the news who have done or said things that he deems worse, worser, and worst.
The people he names are generally conservative politicians, and especially conservative news commentators, such as Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity.
The problem with this is that it is biased criticism of Rage. Betrayal. Denial. A flurry of emotions pulsated through my body as I stared at the bottle sitting on the counter, tears streaming hot down my cheeks. It sat there mocking me Hannity for their own politically biased presentations of news, putting on a mask of O’Reilly and making a Nazi salute on public television, as Olbermann did in 2006, is not the most constructive and intelligent way to make a criticism.
These commentators are representative of a larger problem in American politics: a focus on scoring points against an opponent by attacking their political beliefs or personal background, rather than making a reasonable argument that presents one’s own beliefs.
Debates and campaigns have become increasingly negative, as shown in the catfight taking place between the current Republican candidates. Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum rely on making attacks on President Obama and each other to boost their popularity, rather than inspiring people with clearly stated promises for presidential action.
But the blame cannot rest solely on the politicians. When Americans look to politics for entertainment, politicians are forced to make a game out of debates and campaigns by making negative attacks rather than positive promises.
Election preparation is not meant to be a TV show for viewers to enjoy; it is meant to inform the country about the candidates so that voters can choose who they think will make the most positive impact.
But this is much more difficult to discern when the candidate’s views are pushed to the back of the discussion, and their personal history is brought to the front.
While watching candidates make snarky remarks at each other from behind debate podiums may make for more entertaining television than candidates respectfully waiting their turn to offer their opinion, it is not beneficial to the country to be constantly barraged with this kind of cheap entertainment masquerading as a political process.
The best candidate should not be chosen because he or she has embarrassed or exposed every other candidate, but because they are the most likely to have a positive effect on the country.
America’s political arena has become a diatribe rather than a conversation. While politicians continue to detract and hinder each other instead of rallying around a common goal, the country’s economical and social progress will stagnate.
If America can stop using the political system as an entertainment opportunity, a constructive political system can begin to be rebuilt.