Politics: A matter of due coarse

President Barack Obama told 60 Minutes Sunday night that the national debate on issues is “coarsening.”

File that away in the “well, doh!” category.

Saying political debate in this country is getting “coarse” is like saying serial killer Ted Bundy had an anger management problem.

Political debate ceased being debate long ago. Discussion of issues is not debate — it’s a shout fest with the loudest, most obnoxious name-caller getting the most attention.

Been that way for a long time and the problem is not limited to political debate.

Let’s face it: America has become a rude, coarse society. College and professional sports have become “in your face” free for alls where thugs rule the day and bad behavior is not only encouraged, but rewarded.

Loudmouths who long ago mastered the art of the insult dominate cable TV “news,” with Keith Olbermann ranting from the left and Bill O’Reilly delivering diatribes from the right.

Rush Limbaugh didn’t become the top radio talk show host by being nice. His rude, racist, right-wing rhetoric plays well with those who make up the conservative base in this country.

Don Imus calls an African-American girls’ basketball team “nappy-haired ho’s” and loses his job for a while but is back on the air and will soon be spouting his racist rhetoric live and on TV from the Fox Business channel as well.

An obscure South Carolina Congressman shouts “you lie” from the well of the House while President Barack Obama is speaking to a joint session of Congress and becomes a hero to the rabid right.

Said Obama on 60 Minutes:

The truth of the matter is that there has been, I think, a coarsening of our political dialogue. I will also say that in the era of 24-hour cable news cycles, that the loudest, shrillest voices get the most attention. And so one of the things that Iā€™m trying to figure out is: How can we make sure that civility is interesting?

Don’t even try, Mr. President. Politics is a dirty business. Always has been, always will be.

Let’s remember that this nation started its life as a colony of England, home of one of the most contentious, scrappy and outright rude governments on earth.

Debates before Parliament have always been raucous affairs with shouting and insults ruling the day.

Exchanges between political rivals Benjamin Disraeli and William Gladstone in the 1800s often erupted into a volley of insults like this one:

Gladstone: “You sir, shall die on the gallows or of venereal disease.”

Disraeli: “That, sir, depends on whether I embrace your principles…or your mistress.”


  1. Stratocaster

    Emotion transcends reason, and it is useless to try and rationalize with irrational people. When it becomes a shouting match over who is the biggest liar, both sides are usually right. Name calling is useless. What ever became of a presentation of the facts? Hope is an emotion, not a fact.

  2. logtroll

    I’m not sure Ted Bundy had an anger management problem. I don’t recall hearing that he was mad at his victims. In fact, I think the problem was he liked them too much, in a very inappropriate way.

    Otherwise, I think you’ve hit the mark.

  3. Warren

    The slide started with the Bill vs. Newt shenanigans. Most recall the vociferous and rude dialog carried out in the press, with the two philanderers rallying their political faithful around the relative importance of a blow job. That was, to my mind, the turning point where we started into crude, extremely partisan, personality politics.


  4. JudyB

    Crude politics were an actuality long before Bill & Newt. True, the nation was rivited by what they heard, read & seen during Clinton/Newt era, but that was only because the age of electric media was in the process of being born. I wonder what it would have been like IF the Kennedys, Nixon could have been so closliy monitored??? Or for that matter, Roosevelt? With Bush, there was so much wrong to monitor & report, it made that now infamous blow job Clinton got, seem innocent. There has been rotten shenanigans in Washington and its environs for years, but alas…we now hear it all much sooner than later. (maybe not all, but enough that we are disgusted & sickened in knowing the way our Government is run)

  5. woody188

    If representatives in government were listening, there would be no need to shout.

    Congress is elected to represent, not to direct, the people.

  6. AustinRanter

    I think that overall, people are fundamentaly civilized, but barely. However, politics, in general, has always been nasty business. Civility isn’t one of politics better characteristics.

    The art of debate and managing disagreements in Washington sucks big time. The proof is in the puddin.

    But, it seems like ordinary people, not all, but for the most part, have little to no debate or disagreement management skills.

    It also appears that people in general have really poor “Emotional Thinking Skills”, which is being able to deferentiate between emotion and thinking.

    Our public schools, and even colleges, don’t make an honest effort in adequately enhancing critical thinking skills, logic and reason. They haven’t for generations. Why? That would encourage “free thinking” and that would damn sure not be a good thing for government.

    Woodrow Wilson encouraged “education for a few”. He wanted to limit the opporunities for education for the masses of children because he believed that we needed a substantial “labor class”.

    With the intervention of government in our schools…along with allowing radicals who run our school boards, our education system has turned into nothing more than a production line for spitting out substantial number of kids who will only qualify in the work place as labor.

    Just my opinion, but I believe that we have a nation groomed for emotionalism rather than critical thinking, logic and reason, and which is by design for the gain of a small percentage of elite and government.

    I don’t really think that there’s the need for, or reason for, debate in Washington. When the same entities own both factions of our poltical system…what are the true arguments about…when it comes to managing our social issues? In the end, the outcomes of actions taken in our govenment aren’t for the natural persons (AKA We The People), but rather the “legal persons” (AKA The Corporations). _________________________

    Traveling At the Speed of Life

    Thanks Yall – Gregg

  7. Warren

    I’m going to disagree with some of the early premise. I’ve run for office five times now and I’ve found it to be an extremely civilized and respectful process. There’s been very little name-calling and mud-slinging. The only mud-slinging I can recall was a few elections ago where one opponent (R) was an ex- radio sportscaster. Mud slinging came naturally to him.

    Our perception that this process is other than civilized comes from the media amplification factor. Civilized debate isn’t exciting enough for much coverage. But let two opponents yell and scream at each other and it makes the lead story. We perceive that the process is barbaric because that is what we are shown on a daily (hourly?) basis. We aren’t shown the vastly greater underlying current of civilized discourse. The infrequent occurrences of barbarism become perceived as the norm.