The Neutering of Politics

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Aggressiveness
seems to be all over the news this week. The talking heads and media
pundits all prattle on about how candidate Al Gore exhibits too
much, whereas candidate George W. displays too little. "Will
Gore's aggressiveness hurt him with independents and undecided voters?"
"Is G.W.'s laid back, non-confrontational style part of his
strategy to draw Al Gore into an aggressive posture, so as to make
him look bad to independents, yadda yadda, blah blah…"

In
fact, if there was a consistent theme running through all three
of this fall's presidential debates, it was the media fascination
with Mr. Gore's "Goldilocks and the Porridge" tango with
his "aggressive" personae – too hot, too cold, just
right. Even the VP seems to agree, as he has asked for permission
to rebroadcast the last debate just prior to the election. What
sort of masochist it would take to watch it again is open to speculation,
but obviously Mr. Gore is proud of his performance.

All
of which raises a simple question: What's wrong with aggressive
politics?

Throughout
American history, the debating process was meant to be a public
vetting of ideas. Toss your best out on the table and let the loyal
opposition counter. Read the Lincoln – Douglas debates, the
debates over the constitutionality of creating a national bank,
the Webster-Hayne debate, et al. These men were not afraid to directly
challenge each other, and certainly were not concerned about being
perceived as "too aggressive." The whole idea would have
been considered preposterous.

All
of this discussion of aggressiveness-as-sin certainly does not bear
itself out in any other aspect of our current society. We live in
a culture that thrives on violent confrontation, from our fascination
with Jerry Springer and the WWF, to rap and metal music, video games,
and cinema. Why would people who watch men smash each other over
the head with chairs be put off by a couple of guys in suits arguing
over an issue that might actually have some impact on their lives?

The
only answer can be that the media and the politicians themselves
don't want real debates. Instead, they want controlled "infomercials,"
cut into bite-sized chunks for easy analysis and digestion. Let's
not have any real discussion of the issues going on out there.

Why
was Libertarian Party candidate Harry Browne excluded from he debates?
Because he would have asked Gore and Bush whether they would be
better men today if they had spent ten years in a federal penitentiary
for their youthful indiscretions with illegal drugs. He would have
pointed out in detail how far we have gone beyond the constitutional
limits of federal power.

Why
was the Reform Party's Pat Buchanan excluded from the debates? Because
Pat would have asked the major party candidates embarrassing questions
about America's failing ability to manage immigration on our borders,
and the impact that this has had on our disastrous "War on
Drugs." He would have raised troubling questions about the
mess we call our foreign policy.

Are
these issues salient? Of course they are. Were either Bush or Gore
going to raise them? Hell, no!

In
truth, the whole issue of aggressiveness in the presidential debates
is a function of the continuing feminization of our culture, particularly
as it pertains to white males. Has any one in the media ever accused
Jesse Jackson or Al Sharpton of being too aggressive, no matter
how outrageous their statements might be?

How
about Hillary?

Question,
which is more aggressive:

A) Approaching
a candidate to request they sign a document to limit the use of
soft money to finance campaign ads, as Rep. Lazio did during his
first debate with Mrs. Clinton, or

B) Managing
an attempted federal take over the healthcare industry?

As
far as I'm concerned, the debates were not aggressive enough. Put
all of the candidates out there, take the gloves off and let them
mix it up. Let's let the ideas and policy proposals stand for themselves.
If that's too aggressive for some people, then they have no business
in the polling booth on Election Day.

October
21, 2000

Jef
Allen is a technology professional in Georgia. As a reformed Yankee,
who has lived in the South for roughly twenty years, he has very
little tolerance for Northern sanctimony, or the erosion of individual
liberty.

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